TWO TO GO
On the heels of Wednesday's 6-1 collapse in Calgary, the Oilers set aside their skates and opted for an off-ice workout Thursday morning at Rexall Place.
Two injured players were the exception: Ryan Whitney and Sam Gagner took to the ice in full gear, continuing their respective recoveries from ankle and hand surgeries.
"It's feeling good and I've been doing a lot of physio and treatment on it and it's getting a lot better," Gagner said. "As far as skating, it's just a matter of trying to keep my cardio there, and it's a little more fun than riding the bike. It's nice to get out there and feel my skates, feel the puck."
The 21-year-old doesn't anticipate any issues with his off-season conditioning.
"What I've been told, after three months it's going to be 100 per cent. It's been about month now and it's starting to feel a lot better. I'm already starting to train with different methods, but I'm feeling good so I don't think it's going to hinder my training at all this summer and I should be ready to go (next season)," he said.
Another player on the injured list, Tom Gilbert, did not skate Thursday. After ending his 332-game iron man streak by missing Tuesday's contest vs Vancouver, the defenceman continues to be plagued by back problems and has no timeline for return.
"I've had back problems in the past, but it was just one of those things that I didn't think it was going to be that big a deal and all of a sudden, it just kind of snuck up on me and there's not a whole lot I could do on it," he said. "Obviously I wanted to play, don't like missing any games, and usually I can battle through that, but I couldn't bend over and obviously that was going to affect the way I played."
In addition to injuries, another hot topic among the media was statistics, namely that the Oilers have clinched 30th place for the second consecutive year.
Though finishing last is frustrating and disappointing to coaches, players, management, and fans, the club is not disheartened: a positive attitude, notable individual improvements, and a high pick in the upcoming NHL entry draft mean the bright side is fairly easy to find.
"It's not a good feeling to finish where we have two years in a row. We feel like, despite our record this year, we have made strides and there is hope coming in the future," Gagner said. "We have to find a way to turn ourselves into winners and it's not going to come easy, but I think there's definitely hope and we're all excited going into next year."
Thanks to impressive contributions from this season's crop of rookies and the addition of two 2011 first-round draft picks (Edmonton's pick and the pick acquired from Los Angeles in the Dustin Penner trade), expectations will be exponentially greater for the Oilers in 2011-12.
Success will depend on a variety of factors, head coach Tom Renney explained.
"There's a mindset that goes along with winning, there's an attention to detail that goes along with winning, there's an investment made in the off-season, so that you have the type of start you're looking for that is required before you start winning," he said. "Turnarounds take a lot of patience but they also take perseverance and they take a little bit of luck, there's no question about that, but they also take that need to seize the opportunity, seize the moment, and learn how to win properly, and I think we're on the right track with that."
According to Renney, pride and a sense of responsibility are other important components of a successful team. The coach wants to end the season with those values intact.
"We are a team of pride, we represent the City of Edmonton, quite honestly, and as much as that's a cliche, I don't care what people think about that. That's important to me, and I think it should be to each and every one of [the players], and the way they've played these last few weeks, I think that you can see that they care," he said.
"If you reflect back on this entire season, as much as it's been tough and we've had nights where we haven't looked very good, I think for the most part you can say that this team cared. There's a lot to be said for that. Let's not end it on anything other than a positive note with our effort."
|Paul Lorieau will make his final on-ice anthem performance Friday, April 8 at Rexall Place. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)
The Oilers' final home game of the season goes down tomorrow at 7:00pm vs Minnesota. Not only will this be the last chance for Edmonton-based fans to watch the 2010-11 squad in person, it will also be their last chance to witness Paul Lorieau sing the national anthems.
For almost 30 years, Paul's rich tenor voice has announced the start of Oilers home games. Limited tickets are available, so act now to watch the final performance of this Oil Country legend.
Video tribute to Paul Lorieau
Paul's retrospective photo gallery
In the latest edition of our fan question series, Lia of Edmonton submitted a question for Andrew Cogliano.
LIA: "If you could pick your own goal song to play after you score what would it be?"
ANDREW: "'Eminence Front' by The Who would be awesome. We were talking about that being one of our warm-up songs this year, but I think it would be a cool goal song for me. I love that tune."
How much say do you the players have in the music selection?
"We pick our own warm-up music now and we really like to switch it up. I think we want to try and pick our entrance song next year. I'm not sure what that would be yet, but we'll definitely have a good one if we can find a way to pick our own."
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 Dan Tencer & Tom Gazzola