THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Preparation Day

Injury updates, Rod Phillips' retirement & Penner's return lead practice discussion

Monday, 28.03.2011 / 5:15 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
MONDAY, MARCH 28

PREPARATION DAY

The Oilers were back on Rexall Place ice Monday morning following a complete day of rest and relaxation to close out the weekend.

After falling in a shootout to the provincial rival Calgary Flames Saturday night, Head Coach Tom Renney was eager to push the pace with heart-pumping drills intended to re-instill some energy following that highly emotional loss.

Both J-F Jacques and Colin Fraser were absent this morning, as Renney declared a "maintenance day" for both as they rested some bumps and bruises.

Although that pairing was unable to participate, another duo was back in action to help fill the void. Gilbert Brule and Kurtis Foster, both of whom are recovering from concussions, were in full gear and skated the entire session in regular roles.

While neither player is likely for tomorrow night, gradual improvement throughout the past few days has forecasted returns in the near future.

"The head feels good," Brule said. "I just need to get some contact in and I was trying to get a little bit of that in today, but not full contact yet."

"I was hoping to play tomorrow, but I don't know if that's going to be the case. I just need to get another practice where I'm taking some more hits and seeing how my head feels more so than just skating around out there today."

"I'll talk with T.D. (Forss – Head Athletic Therapist) about him," said Renney of Brule’s condition. "We did not have contact with him today as prescribed. In speaking to him, I felt very good about where he is. I'm not sure he'll go tomorrow, but he's definitely day-to-day."

All things considered, it has been a frustrating year for Brule who has already missed 35 of Edmonton’s 75 games on the back of four separate illness and injury related absences.

"It's been tough all year. There hasn't been any flow to my season," said a disgruntled Brule. "It's been like I'm sick or injured, then I come back and play a couple and then I'm out for even longer. It's been frustrating but I'm just trying to battle through these injuries and do the best I can with the time I've got."

Kurtis Foster
Teammate Foster was able to skate with limited contact today, which gives him the edge in terms of a return. That being said, Renney believes that his condition should be equal to Brule’s "day-to-day situation" despite Foster’s cautious optimism.

"I feel really good," Foster said. "Today was nice to get out there and get a little bit of contact and see what it feels like again. The other day I got the pre-game skate in and it was nice to get the feet going, get the hands going, but today it was nice to feel part of the team again."

Since suffering his concussion last Tuesday against the Predators in Nashville, Foster believes the improvement has been significant.

"I don't notice it at all now. The last couple days I've been able to work out pretty hard and skate and I haven't noticed anything. Definitely excited to be back in the lineup. … I want to be in tomorrow for sure, but it's not up to me. If not, hopefully I'll be ready for Thursday."

THE RETURN OF PENNER

When the Los Angeles Kings visit Rexall Place tomorrow evening, the game will mark Dustin Penner’s highly anticipated return to Edmonton since being traded to Southern California on Feb. 28. 

Head Coach Tom Renney
Renney, while focused on his own team’s task against the Kings, says the sight of Penner facing the Oilers "will be different."

"When you see a former colleague across from you and in our case, a guy you coached, it will certainly bring back some memories. You'll be watching him, see how he's making out, see how he's doing. We'll be watching for the same things that he exhibited here, and I hope he doesn't do a very good job of that, actually."

Although the two sides have clearly moved on, Renney was extremely complimentary of Penner who spent parts of four seasons in Oil Country.

"He's a good man," said a sincere Renney. "He handled [being traded] very well and was very complimentary of our effort to try and help him be a player and our requirement of him as a teammate and vice-versa; he did everything he could to help us. At the end of the day, he's got himself into a real good opportunity to be a playoff player and do some serious damage there."

ROCKIN’ ROD SET TO RETIRE

Tomorrow night will be a special occasion for another reason as well. Voice of the Oilers, Rod Phillips, will call his 3,542nd game as he bids farewell from behind the mic.

As a fan growing up, Edmonton-native defenceman Jason Strudwick says he’ll miss him in the locker room, but is incredibly appreciative of the legacy and fond memories that he provided to Oilers fans everywhere.

"There are certain people that when you mention the Oilers come to mind right away," Strudwick said. "Obviously Gretzky and Messier, but I think Rod Phillips is one of those guys. … He's definitely going to be missed in the dressing room and in the community. So many people recognized and grew up listening to his voice."

Strudwick was one of those fans, as he described some his earliest memories of Rod during the Oilers’  mid-80s dynasty.

"I remember when the Oilers were winning on their Stanley Cups. My dad and I put the radio on top of the TV and turned down the volume on the TV. Nothing against those guys, but we wanted to hear him call the games."

When TV was an unavailable accompaniment, Strudwick was quick to find a solution at a younger age.

"I'd have this old radio right beside my bed and my parents thought I was sleeping, but I just turned it down so I could still hear the games," Strudwick said with a smile. "They'd maybe hear me cheer and I think they knew that I was listening. The way Rod called them, it was just so exciting. It felt like you were in the building."

WHY WATCH ON TV?

Limited single seats are still available for tomorrow night's game, so get yours now before they're gone!

  Click here to purchase tickets online


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Ashley Chornomitz of Saskatoon, SK submitted a question for Jordan Eberle.

ASHLEY: "Who's your favourite team to play against?"

JORDAN: "I'd probably have to say Calgary. Just the rivalry and the energy in the building when we play them. It's pretty hard to beat that."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.


Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

SATURDAY, MARCH 26

OILERS vs. FLAMES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

Following an unsuccessful two-game trip through the U.S. mid-west, the Oilers were back on home turf for morning skate Saturday.

With eight straight losses behind his club and an intense Battle of Alberta ahead, head coach Tom Renney reconfigured the forward lines in an attempt to spark some offense. The new line combinations are expected to be as follows:

Eberle - VandeVelde - Hartikainen
Paajarvi - Cogliano - Omark
Jones - O'Marra - Reddox
Jacques - Fraser - MacIntyre

"We know we've got a formidable opponent tonight and we're going to have to make sure we can play to our depth as well to have success," Renney said. "So we put some combinations together that we think will help us do that and also afford guys the opportunity to play and experience the NHL so we can have a good look at them."

Jordan Eberle is looking forward to skating with recent call-ups Teemu Hartikainen and Chris VandeVelde.

"They've got a lot of energy. They've been playing well, too, and anytime you get guys like those that are willing to kind of battle with you in the corner and win puck races, it's good," he said. "I think with our line anyways, we've kind of been talking to each other and it's just a matter of getting pucks to the net and trying to bang in some greasy ones."

PUTTING OUT THE FLAMES

The Oilers know goals won't come easily: Calgary is two points out of a playoff spot and is desperate to earn at win tonight at Rexall Place.

"Obvously we hoped that we would both be in a playoff position, hunting down those points -- we're not, but certainly our opponent is," Renney said. "Anytime you can play the spoiler role and get in somebody's way and disrupt what their plan is, that's a good thing. The thing for us is to make sure that this sort of feels like a playoff game in terms of how we prepare for it and obviously how we execute it."

The coach is looking for discipline, energy, and focus from his troops.

"I do believe that our penalty-kill is going to have to be good tonight, as with our discipline in general, staying out of the penalty box but playing a firm, decisive game that shows us being competitive in every aspect," he explained. "[And we need] to make sure that we can in fact push the pace, use our bench, and execute a game plan that we believe will be good to us, provided we pay attention to it."

Defenceman Tom Gilbert is expecting a typically competitive Battle of Alberta tonight.

"Regardless of what the standings are, this is always a great battle between us and Calgary, and these are fun games to play in," he said. "We'd like to be in a better position, but it's fun to be the spoiler sometimes against these guys."

Although the Oilers have struggled the past few weeks, Eberle said the adversity is "going to make us better."

"That's the mentality that we're taking out of it. It's not going to help if you're going to get down on each other, it's just going to make things worse, so we've got to try and stay positive and that's the mentality that we're keeping."

FLAMES 5 - OILERS 4 (SO)

Despite owning a 4-1 lead early in the third period, the Oilers couldn't keep the Flames at bay, surrendering three third period goals and one in the shootout for a 5-4 loss Saturday night. Highlights for the Oilers were Teemu Hartikainen's first career NHL goal and Colin Fraser's stellar shorthanded marker.


Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com

 
FRIDAY, MARCH 25

FIGHT NIGHT RECAP

The Oilers landed back in Edmonton early this morning following a winless road trip through Nashville and St. Louis. Even with the late plane ride home, the Oilers opted to return to the rink this morning for an off-ice workout at Rexall Place, as the team prepares to face the Calgary Flames tomorrow night.

Although scoring production continues to be a sore spot for this depleted Oilers squad, it was the team’s physical  play that was the hot topic this morning.

Jim Vandermeer, J-F Jacques and Theo Peckham all engaged in first period fights with willing Blues combatants. Although energy in the building was high, Peckham was not pleased with the actions of Blues rookie Ryan Reaves following his bout.

"I yelled in the penalty box, 'show some class!’" Peckham said.

The melee was short-lived, as Peckham lost his balance and tumbled to the ice; prompting the linesmen to step in and break the men apart. With shots landed on both sides, the decision was a draw.

Reaves, on the other hand, saw things differently as he waved his hands en route to the penalty box. All things considered, an action that Peckham considered to be an act of belittlement between opponents.

"Doesn't matter how bad you beat up a guy. You see [Steve MacIntyre] beat guys up all the time and he skates straight to the penalty box. It's a common respect amongst players and I've never been the type to do that. If he wants to do that, that's his thing."

THE HEAVYWEIGHT

Excluded in the opening period ruckus was heavyweight Steve MacIntyre, who was unable to find a willing dance partner throughout the evening. Head Coach Tom Renney was mum with his comments, but hinted that he wanted his tough guy to be more involved.

"First of all, he's got to play. He's got to show me that he can play the game and participate within the structure of a game plan. On my part, I have to deliver the opportunity. And I'm willing to do that."

"That being said, sometimes you've got to hunt your prey."

When asked if MacIntyre was too honorable in his approach, Renney was reserved in his criticism.

"Maybe. And others are, too."

With Vandermeer stepping up to battle with Cam Janssen, Renney believed to see a discrepancy in size that was carefully selected by the Blues forward.

"I would have picked a different opponent than Jimmy (Vandermeer) did last night. I would have said that we've got another guy on the bench that will dance with you."

Head Coach Tom Renney
With that said, Renney believes that MacIntyre needs to improve in the teachable areas before he can be allotted more ice-time on a regular basis.

"We have to make sure that Mac can function within the structure that we want to play," Renney said.

"We're starting with a pretty raw guy here who hasn't had a lot of opportunity prior to this year to be a player; and really hasn't yet either, quite honestly. I'm not going to pat myself on the back. I would like to deploy him more than I have. Those are my decisions and I'm fine with that."

MacIntyre agreed with his coach’s assessment, saying that his goal is to continually improve as he looks to make his on-ice contributions more valuable.

"I think long-term, that's my goal. Gradually get better every practice and to keep up with the guys and be able to get to my hits," MacIntyre said. "Not to be running around out of position, but being in the right place at the right time, and keeping my feet moving."

"That's part of being a big guy. It's a little tough to get going and get those pops, but that's something that we have to work on and I'm willing to put the work in. I have to go out there and be more assertive. I need to take the bull by the horns and run a few guys and set the tone that way."

For MacIntyre, balancing the line between that and his other, more common role has been an ongoing challenge, given the circumstances of today’s game.

Steve MacIntyre
"I've been in the minors for a long time and down there, there's a few more guys that are willing to go. That's their job and that's what they're there for. Here, it's a job but you have to be smart about it. With power-plays and penalty kills that teams have, they could very easily put you down one or two goals."

Renney appreciates MacIntyre’s devotion to his job, but further emphasized the need for an overall improvement.

"He will always be there for his teammates and his team from a physical point of view. We don't have to teach that. What I want to make sure of, and that was why I suggested my earlier comment, is that he gets a chance to be a player first; because he does some other stuff that you don't teach."

"We want to make sure that Steve gets the chance to continue to improve, and I believe he is improving," Renney concluded.

PLAYING THE SPOILER

The Calgary Flames are next on the schedule as the season winds down. Calgary, who currently sits 10th in the NHL’s Western Conference standings, still has an opportunity to make the post-season with a miraculous late-season run. Edmonton is looking to end that hope Saturday night at Rexall Place.

"We're excited about that," Renney said.

"It's fun to be a part of the Battle of Alberta, regardless of each team's circumstance. It just has a life of its own, anyway. The fact of the matter is that Calgary still has an opportunity to make the playoffs and for us, that's motivation to do whatever we can to prevent that."

In order to accomplish that, the Oilers will need a stronger effort as the team looks to rebound from Thursday’s setback in St. Louis. Regardless of the circumstances, Edmonton’s bench boss is behind his group all the way.

"You should never, ever, underestimate yourself," Renney said.

"Even at this point in the season now with our lineup looking like it is, there are some really valuable lessons to be learned. Opportunity is there. This is our roster and you're going to play. That has opportunity written all over it."

SINGLES STILL AVAILABLE

Limited single seats are still available for tomorrow night's game, so get yours now before they're gone!

  Click here to purchase tickets online


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Harleen of Edmonton submitted a question for Linus Omark.

HARLEEN: "Who is your roommate on the road and what is his worst habit that bugs you?"

LINUS: "My roommate on the road is Liam Reddox. His worst habit, I would say, is that he showers more than six times a day. But he's always clean, and he smells so very good, so I'm able to appreciate that."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.


Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

 

 

Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com
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