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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Weekday Update

Injuries, recoveries & call-up possibilities are hot topics at Monday's practice

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 5:33 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Weekday Update
MONDAY, APRIL 4

WEEKDAY UPDATE

Following Saturday's confident 4-1 win in Vancouver and a day off Sunday, the Oilers returned to the ice for a 45-minute practice Monday morning. Various ailments kept a few players from participating.

After taking a puck on the toe and finishing the game with a bleeding foot Saturday night, defenceman Ladislav Smid skated shortly before practice but did not stick around for the drills.

"It's sore, it's tender. He went out before us and had a little skate and said it felt pretty good, so I fully expect he'll play," head coach Tom Renney explained.

During practice, Taylor Chorney filled in for Smid on the blue line. Despite skating with the team for the past two weeks, the 23-year-old's knee injury continues to keep him out of the line-up.

"
I'm not sure he's quite ready," Renney said. "I did a pretty good skate with him a couple days ago and when he was finished he wasn't finished."

If Chorney stays on the injured list, he could be joined by Gilbert Brule. Brule left Saturday's game after playing only 4:32, but Renney shared little information on the reason for his departure.

"We're still trying to fight this a little bit with respect to his general feel," the coach said. "Whether or not it's his head or not, I don't know. He suggested that he was a little out of sorts during the day, which is unfortunate because I thought he had a hell of a start to his game, so we're just waiting to get some more feedback from him and take it from there."

While Brule is questionable for Tuesday night's rematch vs the Canucks, Renney confirmed that forward Colin Fraser will not play. After missing the past two games with an undisclosed injury, the 26-year-old centerman did not practice this morning and had an MRI instead.

With all the absentees, Renney was forced to switch up the lines again. Monday's forward combinations were as follows:

Teemu Hartikainen - Chris VandeVelde - Jordan Eberle
Liam Reddox - Andrew Cogliano - Linus Omark
Magnus Paajarvi - Ryan O'Marra - Ryan Jones
Steve MacIntyre - Jean-Francois Jacques - Jason Strudwick

On defence, the coach crafted the following pairings:

Theo Peckham - Kurtis Foster
Taylor Chorney - Tom Gilbert
Jim Vandermeer - Jeff Petry

Only time will tell if those combinations stick tomorrow, but between the pipes, the decision has been made: Devan Dubnyk to start.

"I'm sure you'll see these last few games will be more or less split, but I'll go with Dubey tomorrow night and take it from there," Renney stated.

The young netminder is eager to frustrate the Canucks a second time.

"You get a game like that, obviously you take it and it makes you feel pretty good and gives you the opportunity to carry it in to another game right away," Dubnyk said, adding another win won't come easily. "They're probably going to want to come in and play better than they did. Not to take away from what we did -- I thought we had a pretty great game there and there's no reason that we can't do that again, but we certainly have to expect a hard push from them."

MAKING THE CALL

Teemu Hartikainen is one of 11 players who made the transition from Oklahoma City to Edmonton this season. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)

With the exception of two injuries to Nikolai Khabibulin and the assignment of Jeff Deslauriers to Oklahoma City in November, Edmonton's goaltending storylines have stayed on the ice this season. Not so up front, as injuries, recalls, and reassignments have kept the rest of the roster in flux.

The first year of the Oilers-Barons affiliation has been an active one: thanks to 26 transactions between both teams, 11 players that started the year in the AHL enjoyed at least one game of valuable NHL experience, including  current Oilers Hartikainen, O'Marra, Omark, Reddox, VandeVelde, Chorney, and Petry.

The Oilers season will end on Sunday but playoffs are a distinct possibility for the Barons, who have a slim hold on a post-season berth with only three regular season games left to play. Renney doesn't want to threaten the Barons playoff chances by further depleting their line-up.

"If there's someone down there that can really, really benefit by a good look here over the next little while, if in fact an opening presents itself, I would listen to that," the coach said. "(But) that coaching staff have done an excellent job of putting this team in a position to make the playoffs and the last thing I think we should do is be a deterrent to that outcome."

HORCOFF INJURY UPDATE

Included among the many Oilers injuries this season is Shawn Horcoff's fractured ankle. The captain has missed seven games so far and is uncertain if he will make a full recovery before Sunday's season closer.

"We pushed it trying to get it to respond and get back as soon as possible, and the MRI showed there was a little more damage than the Xray showed, so it pushed the timetable back obviously more than we thought it was going to be initially," he explained.

"I skated today and I skated a couple days ago. It's still a little bit sore just because of the area of the break, it's right on the ankle bone, it's tough getting pressure off that. But there's still six days here. I'm doing my best."

ONE-ON-ONE

Jordan Eberle

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Joanna Smith of Moose Jaw submitted a question for Jordan Eberle.

JOANNA: "What is your favourite kind of pie?"

JORDAN: "Hmm, I would say apple pie or banana cream pie. That stuff is good."

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: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

 
SATURDAY, APRIL 2

OILERS vs. CANUCKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

Looking to snap an 11-game winless skid (0-8-3), the Edmonton Oilers face about as difficult an opponent as you can with a match-up against the league-leading Vancouver Canucks tonight at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks have the most points (113), most wins (52) and most road wins (26) in the entire league. They have scored the most goals in the NHL (253), allowed the fewest (177) and have recorded the top power-play and penalty-killing percentages (24.7% and 86.6%, respectively). No club has finished first in each of these categories in a single season since the NHL expanded from six teams in 1967.

"This is a great team and we're looking forward to the challenge," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney after the morning skate. "We know what they're capable of, as do 29 other teams and we get the next chance."

Among the top individual performers, Daniel Sedin leads the NHL in scoring with 100 points (41 goals, 59 assists). Twin brother Henrik - who won the Art Ross Trophy last year is third this season with 91 points. Ryan Kesler has the 40-goal plateau in his sights,  tied for fourth among NHL goal-scorers with 37.

However, for Renney it will be about the lineup he has in front of him tonight and he had high praise for the play of the Oklahoma City Barons call-ups.

"It's about incremental success, and that doesn't just mean this season it means a game and every time we play. It's about five-minute segments, quite honestly. Then you build a period and build a game so that's our intention tonight, naturally, and we want to try and give Vancouver as little as possible 'free stuff'.

"Beyond that, the call-ups have done really well. I don't think there's a guy here that hasn't contributed in his own way to help us stay competitive. You can go through all of them, from Chorney to Petry, you've got Chris VandeVelde doing a nice job at centre ice for us and showing us that he's got a two-way mentality that we like.

"Ryan O'Marra with some size up the middle and an ability to win face-offs has shown us that he's capable of helping us out in that regard. And you've got people like Reddox who've done what they need to do in terms of that two-way game as well."

The head coach added that he was most impressed with the play of Teemu Hartikainen, however.

"Every one of them has contributed one way or another and I think Teemu has probably been the guy that's maybe eliminated himself a little bit more for his physical play and his ability to go to the blue paint and play a hard game."

Cory Schneider gets the start tonight for the Canucks, going head-to-head with Devan Dubnyk.

FOSTER RETURNS

After missing four games with a concussion, Kurtis Foster returns to the Oilers lineup tonight.

"Foster's in for Strudwick," said Renney. "We'll get Kurtis going, get his shot going if we can, and try to get some power play time with him."

For the 6'4" defenceman, it's an opportunity to play a game in front of what's expected to be a boisterous crowd.

"It's going to be fun. It's going to probably be a playoff atmosphere game with the crowd noise here and how good of a team they are," he said.

Foster has waited on the sidelines a little longer than he had hoped to get a return. The blueliner felt he was ready to go Thursday against the Wild.

"(Renney) pushed me pretty hard that last day and wanted to make sure I was 100% before I came back and he asked me again yesterday. I feel really good, so I'm excited to get back and definitely eager to get back in tonight."

The only other lineup note is that Colin Fraser continues to be out due to an undisclosed injury.


OILERS 4 - CANUCKS 1

In what was arguably the team's most impressive outing this season, the Edmonton Oilers went head-to-head with the reigning President's Trophy champions on the road and came out on top with a 4-1 victory.

Jordan Eberle, Kurtis Foster and Linus Omark each contributed a goal and an assist while Magnus Paajarvi added a goal and Andrew Cogliano had a pair of helpers. Devan Dubyk stopped 40 of 41 shots in goal for the win.

Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola & Bob Stauffer

 
FRIDAY, APRIL 1

ROAD TRIP CONTINUES

The Edmonton Oilers continue to search for answers in the midst of their current 11-game slide (0-8-3) and the task doesn't get any easier with the next two games being up against the best team in the NHL - the Vancouver Canucks.

Having clinched the President's Trophy for League's best record, Vancouver is first in the NHL in points  goals for, goals against, power play and penalty killing. No team has accomplished this feat in the NHL's "expansion era" since 1967.

Oilers head coach Tom Renney is well aware of the task his team has ahead of them. 

"Only on paper," Renney joked when asked if his 30th-place team would be underdogs heading into tomorrow night's game. "It's a great opportunity for us to improve ourselves, improve our reputation, to challenge ourselves in terms of our team play and expose our team to some very good hockey players and a good team."

The head coach also stressed that with the daily grind, motivation can be difficult but the most important thing was that the coaching staff continue to be upbeat and lead by example in that way.

"If we take on the appearance of being demoralized or lacking drive and ambitiion, that's contagious too," he said. "As a coaching staff, we feel the responsibilty for leading from that point of view and I have to say that our players are legitimate. It's authentic.

"You don't want to have to go through this too many times, obviously, but what they're doing with this experience and in our circumstance is pretty impressive."

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Some of the younger players on the team have also been thrust into the role of leading by example with the influx of so many players from the Oklahoma City Barons in the past few weeks. 

Ryan Jones, 26, has only 171 NHL games under his belt but is now seen as one of those players with plenty of experience to share with the rookies.

"Those guys, I remember being in their position, you just come up and look for guys and learn from the things you do. It's just a matter of leading the way by example, there's not much that needs to be said. Everybody's a good hockey player at this point," said Jones. "If you need to calm them down or need them to relax, that's easy to do."

Jones did add that this season has been a lot more fun than last year despite the results being not much different overall.

"If there's one thing I'd like to pass on, it's that you can work hard and have fun at the same time."

Jordan Eberle mentioned that he has learned a lot from the older players on the team.

"I think a lot of it is what it takes to be a pro," he said on what he's learned this season. "If you look at some of the older guys, Gibby, Struddy, Horc and Hemmer when they weren't injured, you just see their demeanour around the rink and the way they approach the game."

On the flip side, despite only being 20 years old, Eberle is also seeing himself now in a bit of a leadership role, too. He's played more career games than six other Oilers on the current active roster.

"Most of my leading is trying to do it on the ice, making plays that will help our team win and stuff like that. That's the approach I take."


ONE-ON-ONE

Kurtis Foster

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Milan of Burnaby, BC submitted a question for Kurtis Foster.

MILAN: "If you could relive any one single moment in your hockey career (not just in the NHL) what would that be and why?"

KURTIS: "Probably my greatest hockey moment was my first year with Minnesota, within my first 20 games, we were playing Montreal at home and one of my good buddies, Mikko Koivu, it's his first game playing against Saku.

"In overtime, against Montreal, I score the OT winner on a power play. It was an amazing moment to go through but when you watch the replay and you see how excited Mikko is when he takes the puck from his brother and the puck ends up coming to me and I score, it was something I'll never forget."

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: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

 


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