THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Final Remarks

Oilers reflect on the season, look ahead to Worlds, NHL Draft & '11-12 campaign

Monday, 11.04.2011 / 5:17 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Final Remarks
MONDAY, APRIL 11

FINAL REMARKS

On September 17, after completing medical and fitness testing, the Oilers made their first public comments about the upcoming 2010-11 season. 207 days and 88 games later, the players concluded the season with a final round of questions at Rexall Place.

The Oilers of six months ago couldn't (and wouldn't want to) predict that the club would finish in 30th place for a second consecutive year. Injuries and inexperience contributed to another difficult campaign in Edmonton, but according to captain Shawn Horcoff, a sense of optimism has improved the atmosphere in the locker room.

"I think last year, there was a lot of uncertainty of 'Where do we go from here? What's going to happen?'" he said. "But it's a totally different feeling this year: We understand the direction that we're going, we have a real good base. I think the talent, and the young talent especially, they came in this year and really I think showed everyone, the fans and the city, that they can play and they're going to be able to play at a high level early."

Devan Dubnyk was one of the young players who excelled this season. The 24-year-old goaltender registered a 0.916 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against  average in 35 appearances this season, impressive numbers on a team that struggled to find success.

"As a team we certainly would have liked to have some more wins, but personally I felt like I grew from the start of the year to the end and continued to get better and develop that confidence," Dubnyk said. "(I) got to play a lot of games, probably a lot more than I would have expected at the start of the year, so I got to see a lot of situations against a lot of different teams. That's how you get better."

Outside the crease, an unprecedented influx of rookies provided Edmonton with a welcome dose of enthusiasm, optimism, and offense. The Oilers leading scorer was first-year right winger Jordan Eberle, who finished the season with 18 goals and 25 assists.

"It was definitely a learning year," Eberle reflected. "I think if I look from day one to now, obviously the biggest thing I looked for is if the game is going to slow down, and I thought definitely it did."

The Oiler that attracted the most attention and, accordingly, played with the most pressure was also the youngest on the roster: Taylor Hall.

In his first NHL season, the first overall draft pick scored 22 goals and added 20 assists before succumbing to an ankle injury March 3rd. Despite the disappointing end to the season, Hall is pleased with the progress he made.

"It was a big adjustment at first for me personally, but as the season wore on, I got more used to the NHL, and I'll come here next year knowing a lot about the league," he said. "
I want to keep improving as a player. I want to continue working with my teammates, getting chemistry with whoever I play with next year. I want to become a better player at both ends of the rink, but at the same time, it's nice to know that whatever I've done has worked and I had a pretty good year."

WINNING THE LOTTERY

The Oilers selected Taylor Hall first overall last year. Will they get first overall again this year? And if so, who will they pick? (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Based on tomorrow's NHL Entry Draft Lottery, the Oilers could have another first overall pick on their roster next season. The players agree that the high draft pick is a silver lining on the dark-cloud season, but they aren't thinking too deeply about who the pick might be or what he will contribute come September.

"As a player, you know you're going to get the first-round pick and obviously we're happy with it, but all that's out of our control," Horcoff said. "[September] really becomes the time where, as a player, you get to evaluate the draft or what kind of players these guys are. We're going to get a top pick, first or second pick. Who that is remains to be seen, but it's going to be a good player and they're going to help us soon."

Hall predicts that Edmonton's top selection "is going to have some pressure," but added that the players and coaches are eager to welcome the new addition this fall.

"We talk about it all the time that as much as we don't like losing, it's a lot better than finishing ninth and not getting a high pick. So we're on the right track here, we have a lot of young players, and for good reasons fans should be excited."

IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLDS

Oilers forward Magnus Paajarvi led Team Sweden in scoring at last year's IIHF World Championships. Will he do it again this year? (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft is 2.5 months away, but don't despair, Oilers fans: although official announcements have yet to be made, some of your favourite players are likely to participate in the IIHF World Championships.

After finishing third in tournament scoring last year with nine points in nine games, Magnus Paajarvi is eager to upgrade his bronze medal as part of Team Sweden this year.

"
I love playing hockey and putting the national team jersey on is pretty cool. It's a big honour for sure," he said. "The last World Champs was a really good experience for me and hopefully we can take the gold. I really developed a lot that tournament so hopefully I can do that this year too."

Eberle registered four points in four games with Team Canada last year but has yet to be contacted by team management.

"Obviously I'd love to go -- I went last year and it was a great experience," he said. "I talked to (Oilers GM Steve) Tambellini and he said that obviously I'm on the radar and it's just a matter of who they want to take, so like I said before, it would be awesome to go and continue playing."

The 2011 World Championships run from April 29 - May 15 in Slovakia. Stay tuned to edmontonoilers.com for full coverage of the participating Oilers.


Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola

 
SUNDAY, APRIL 10

AVALANCHE 4 - OILERS 3 (OT)

David Jones scored with 1:03 left in overtime to lift the Colorado Avalanche over the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 on the final day of the NHL Regular Season.

Scoring his first goal of the season, Liam Reddox tallied for the Oilers as well as Teemu Hartikainen while Nikolai Khabibulin turned away 21 shots in a losing cause. Linus Omark had a pair of assists.

FIRST PERIOD

25 seconds into the game, Mark Olver took an interference penalty to give Edmonton an early power play and they capitalized quickly.

Just over a minute into the man advantage and 1:26 into the game, Teemu Hartikainen converted a feed from Linus Omark to score his third goal of the season and give the Oilers a 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later, the Avalanche scored to tie the game at 1-1. David Jones spun in the offensive zone before throwing it to Ryan O'Reilly in the slot. He made no mistake, firing it past Khabibulin to even it up.

Less than a minute after that, Colorado struck again to extend their lead to 2-1. Philippe Dupuis skated in and rifled it past the Oilers netminder for the go-ahead marker.

Edmonton took its first penalty of the game just past the seven-minute mark - Chris VandeVelde was sent off for hooking - but the Oilers were able to kill it off.

Late in the period, it looked like Colorado had taken a two-goal lead after Daniel Winnik's wraparound attempt slid under the pad of Khabibulin just inside the post. After video review, it was ruled as inconclusive with no clear view of the puck having crossed the goal line.

After one period, shots on goal were 12 to 6 for the Avalanche. They were doubling Edmonton up on the scoreboard as well, 2-1.

SECOND PERIOD

Matt Duchene took a tripping penalty five minutes into the second period and it only took the Oilers 12 seconds to convert and tie the game at 2-2.

Kurtis Foster took a feed from Magnus Paajarvi just inside the blueline in the high slot area and blasted it past Budaj for the goal. Hartikainen stood in front for the screen.

An Adam Foote clearing attempt was intercepted by Ryan O'Marra and then picked up by Ryan Jones. Jones fed the puck to Liam Reddox. He fired it on net and Budaj got a piece of it but not enough as it trickled in past him and just over the line. The goal was the first for Reddox since February 2009.

With a minute to go in the period, Theo Peckham absolutely lined up and obliterated Matt Duchene at the blueline. Ryan Wilson immediately went after the OIlers defenceman and the two dropped the gloves for a brief fight. Peckham received two minutes for elbowing for his play on Duchene.

Heading into the second intermission, Edmonton had a 3-2 lead while both teams were even on the shot clock 16-16.

THIRD PERIOD

30 seconds into the final frame, Colorado tied the game. Milan Hejduk dished the puck to Duchene and the winger then found Hejduk in the slot to complete the nice give-and-go. Hejduk made no mistake, shooting it glove side past Khabibulin. 

After the goal, Edmonton stepped it up defensively, only allowing two more Colorado shots through the next 17 minutes but the Oilers were unable to generate much in the way of offence themselves with their six shots on net during the same timeframe.

Shots on goal at the end of regulation were 25 to 21 for Edmonton.

OVERTIME

Edmonton carried the play through the first three minutes of extra time, outshooting Colorado three to one with the majority of the play down in the Avalanche zone. Adam Foote, playing his final game, earned a loud ovation for his mandhandling of Teemu Hartikainen in the corner. 

With 1:49 to go, Liam Reddox took a tripping penalty to put Colorado on the power play for the final two minutes of OT.

On the man advantage, David Jones picked up a loose puck in front of the net after Khabibulin kicked out a Duchene shot. Jones made no mistake, backhanding the puck in to give Colorado the win.

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

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FRIDAY, APRIL 8

OILERS vs. WILD:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

For the last time this season, the Oilers took to the Rexall Place ice for morning skate earlier today. With the team destined to finish in 30th place, the goal for tonight's game is simple: reward loyal fans with a win over the Wild.

"We feel an obligation to come out and play hard," head coach Tom Renney said. "We feel an obligation to give our fans, that have supported us all year long under these tough circumstances, an opportunity to watch their team put what they've got into every single period of hockey tonight and chase down a win hard."

"It's important to us to go out and really put in a good effort in front of our fans," Devan Dubnyk added. "They've stuck with us no matter what's happened throughout this year and through last and we owe them a good effort."

The statistics say that a win won't come easily. The Wild have scored four goals in five previous victories over the Oilers this season, meaning it has been almost exactly a year since Edmonton defeated their divisional opponents (April 5, 2010: EDM 4 - MIN 1).

Renney isn't reading too much into the stats.

"How do you not give another team credit that's sort of had your number? But at the same time, I think it's been blown out of proportion. We'll beat them. Sooner or later, we'll beat them. And we'll beat lots of teams. For us, whatever history might suggest, so be it. We're talking about where we are today and where we're going tomorrow and that's that," he said.

Between the pipes, Dubnyk is tasked with breaking the Wild spell. The 24-year-old has performed well for the Oil this season --  earning nearly half of the team's wins  (12 of 25) despite playing only 34 games -- and Renney is confident the talented netminder will only get better.

"Devan is recognizing the moment and seizing it, and secondly, he's also playing to his potential," the coach said. "Ultimately we hope that potential increases, as does he. We think we're on the verge of helping a guy be a number one goaltender in the league over time."

Dubnyk's goal is to "continue to get better."

"I've learned a lot throughout the last year and a bit, and it's exciting to see that development coming and feeling confident on the ice," he said. "I'm just excited to kind of keep going and keep making little tweaks."

PAUL'S SWAN SONG

While Dubnyk has just started a rising career with the Oilers, another Edmonton star is ready to retire at the top of his game.

Famed anthem singer Paul Lorieau will make his final on-ice performance prior to tonight's game at Rexall Place, and all Oilers staff are sad to see him go.

"As a Canadian guy, any of us that are grew up listening to him, amongst others, sing the anthem, and it's funny how they so much become the fabric of our game," Renney said. "You get to appreciate the talent of people like that when you're standing behind the bench listening to him ... It's a great voice, a fabulous voice."

"I think everyone remembers the '06 playoffs when he did his job there," Jordan Eberle added. "I think when you look at the Oilers, he's definitely a part of it and a part of the history here, so it'll be sad to see him go and like I said before, he's a good singer too. It's great listening to him."

Read more about Paul's farewell


WILD 3 - OILERS 1

Aggressive play that netted 122 penalty minutes to both teams may have been thrilling for fans, but the penalties and misconducts hobbled the Oilers and limited them to one goal, courtesy of Teemu Hartikainen. With two goals of their own, including an empty-netter, the Wild emerged with a 3-1 win in the final game of the season at Rexall Place.

Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola & Bob Stauffer

 

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