THE TEAM TODAY: Camp Chronicles
Sutton skates, Hordichuk comments on Kassian tilt & more at Oilers practice
Following roster cuts to begin Day 6 at Oilers Training Camp, the 54 players remaining hit the ice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park for a brisk, one-hour practice.
RELEASE: Oilers Trim Roster
Joining the squad was Andy Sutton, who made an appearance yesterday with the Black Aces, but skated in a more regular role today when his group took to the sheet at 10:45am.
“It was great to be back out there today and it's good to be back in competition mode and out of hospital mode,” he said.
Sutton had missed time early due to the birth of his daughter on Sep. 17, but is eager to be back battling with the team as the pre-season schedule rolls along.
The 6’6”, 245-pound rearguard spent 2010-11 with the Anaheim Ducks, playing in only 39 games and recording four assists and +1 rating.
“Probably the same as any other time,” he said when asked about the transition to a new team and new city. “Just take the extra time when you have it to try and figure out Edmonton a little bit.
“Same thing, try to spend a little extra time around the rink and get to know the guys a little bit and try to get a bit more comfortable.”
Sutton, 36, comes into this season with something to prove. As a physical, responsible and aggressive two-way blueliner, he’s driven to establish himself once more, both on the ice and in the locker room.
“I was always have high expectations for myself,” he explained. “I want to provide solid play for the team and be a good leader for the young guys.
“I haven't talked to Tom (Renney) yet. It's obviously his decision, but there hasn't been a discussion yet about when I’ll play.
“I'm still trying to get my legs under me. I'll be ready when he needs me.”
“There's no question he's an imposing man; he's a big guy, obviously,” Renney added. “He knows his way around an NHL rink, so he's got a great presence.
“Having coached against him in other situations around the league, I know what he looks like on the ice, and what kind of an impact he can have on a game.
“My hope is that he can do that for us and have a calming effect, too, by the nature of the way he approaches the game. He doesn't get too rattled and he keeps things simple.”
LATE ADDITION - HORDICHUK ON TUESDAY'S TILT
Darcy Hordichuk was originally slated to play in Saskatoon vs. the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday, but plans changed when the Wild revealed they would be playing tough-guy Matt Kassian at Rexall Place.
It took only seven minutes for Hordichuk to make his mark. He lined up and crushed Minnesota’s Nate Prosser, causing Kassian to step in and challenge the Oilers’ enforcer.
Hordichuk, 6’1” and 211 pounds, gave up three inches and 21 pounds in the tilt. Even so, he hung on well and landed several shots, drawing even against one of the league’s toughest.
“You hope that you land at least one,” Hordichuk explained. “When those guys lock you out, they know how to use their reach. You watch some of [Kassian’s] fights, and he's beat up guys like Jody Shelley, guys that are the heavies in the league.
“Usually, assuming it was someone else, I'd stay in the pocket and try to switch up and take a couple. But I've got some respect for him, for what he's done against some of the other guys that I've fought.
“It's pre-season. Now the next time I fight him, I'll change things up a little bit.”
Hordichuk signed a one-year, $825,000 deal on Jul. 1, replacing and upgrading on the toughness of Zack Stortini, Steve MacIntyre and J-F Jacques. The 31-year-old winger inked in Edmonton because he knew the role he can provide was lacking and that he would get an excellent opportunity in the NHL’s Northwest Division.
“Every night I go in the lineup, I know there's always a tough guy on the other side,” he said. “It's a matter of me fighting for a reason. Every game I'm going to go out there and run around, and that's why every team has a heavyweight.
“It was a good job on [Kassian’s] part to try and slow me down, but at the end of the day, I still think I had six or seven hits.”
It’s unclear whether or not Hordichuk will get the opportunity play his former club tomorrow evening when the Oilers go head-to-head with the Vancouver Canucks, but there’s no question that he’d like to.
“It's going to be fun,” he laughed. “I'm glad to be in this division; to play teams like Vancouver and Calgary. I'm going to be out on the ice running around, and hopefully they have guys that are going to respond.
“There are no buddies out there. I've got the Oilers uniform on and I'm proud to be an Oiler right now. If I can punish somebody out there, that's what I'm going to do.”
BOTTOM-SIX BATTLE - BRULE VS. LANDER
Anton Lander began Training Camp as best as he possibly could. The 20-year-old centre scored three goals in two games at the 2011 Young Stars Tournament. One night ago, he responded by posting one goal and one assist, as well as being named the game’s first star in his pre-season debut.
“So far, so good.” Renney remarked. “He's a very intelligent player; he's a very responsible guy. I think he's one of those players who will drag his linemates along, in both ends of the rink, to do the right thing. That certainly bodes well and it speaks to his leadership.”
Perhaps lost in the discussion is the play of Gilbert Brule, who’s coming off a 2010-11 season in which injuries and illness limited him to only 41 games. Lander, Ryan O’Marra, and even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to some extent, are pushing their way up the depth chart, challenging Brule for a full-time gig.
“I think that's great,” Brule said. “We need that healthy competition here, as long as we're pushing each other to get better and making the guys around us better.”
INJURY BUG - TEUBERT, EAGER & FEDUN UPDATES
Colten Teubert did not skate again today, but is making progress and could possibly be on the ice within a day or two.
“It depends on how I react to getting my heart rate up,” he said. “I feel pretty good; I rode the bike today. Tomorrow I might skate, so we'll see what happens.”
Having taken a punch square on the button by Adam Polasek during the Young Stars Tournament opener, Teubert has no qualms about taking the proper amount of time to recuperate.
“With all the recent stuff on concussions, if you take the safe route and be cautious with it, it's okay by me. It's frustrating to watch practice and games, but I'm going to stay positive, and when I'm healthy and ready to go, I'm going to bring it.”
Missing in action at today’s practice was Ben Eager, who was aggressively crunched by Kirill Tulupov in Sunday’s Joey Moss Cup.
“He does have a concussion,” Head Coach Tom Renney deadpanned. “It's not real severe and I think he's doing really well today. I don't know the timeline with all of that, but as of today he's doing real well.”
Taylor Fedun, who was smashed from behind in yesterday’s contest with the Minnesota Wild, was also absent. As Renney explains, the prognosis is much more positive.
“Not that I've been told,” he said when asked about a possible concussion. “We’ll call it day-to-day and will probably be okay tomorrow.”
OILERS VS. BLACKHAWKS
A brisk, 20-minute skate at Rexall Place helped launch the Oilers’ 2011 pre-season schedule Tuesday morning. The team will go head-to-head with the Minnesota Wild at home, but will also challenge the Chicago Blackhawks on the road in Saskatoon.
The Saskatchewan-bound group took to the ice at 10:00am, led by the team’s dynamically skilled top line: Ryan Smyth, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
THE KID’S FIRST GAME
No. 1 overall pick Nugent-Hopkins highlighted post-practice media scrums, discussing the ‘excitement’ (word of the day) of playing in his first career NHL pre-season contest.
“I'm extremely excited, I can't wait to get out there,” he said. “I think the most important thing for me is to play my game out there; have fun, but play and work as hard as I can, too.”
Head Coach Tom Renney agreed, saying the best-case scenario for the 6’0”, 171-pound centre is to play the style he knows so well.
“We want to make sure that the circumstances don't stifle him from being the great player that he is,” he explained. “In other words, being proactive, having fun, being instinctive, using his linemates and making the plays that he's certainly capable of.”
Linemate and new mentor Ryan Smyth will also be donning the Oilers’ orange and royal blue colours vs. Chicago, but wanted to keep the attention on the 18-year-old’s new experience.
“I think it's special; at 18 coming in and being a part of it. And this is my 17th year,” he laughed.
“[Nugent-Hopkins is] very humble and he's got his head on his shoulders. I think he's really eager and excited to play this game, too.
“He's got a long career in front of him, there's no question. I'm privileged to play with him right now and hopefully we can get something going. We want him to enjoy it.”
But, like everyone else around Oil Country, No. 94 is equally as excited to be back playing games with Edmonton.
“I'm extremely excited to be back as an Oiler and wearing this orange and blue again,” he said. “Just trying to go out there and play, have fun…and win.”
THE MASKED MAN
Devan Dubnyk will be getting the start in goal tonight vs. Chicago. The 25-year-old netminder is coming off a sparking rookie campaign, and will be driven to start 2011-12 on the right foot.
“It's exciting,” he said. “It was a long summer, especially this last month or so leading up to it. We've had a good few days of practice in here. It's going to be a different look, getting back into a game.
“I'm excited for it. I'm going to go out there and make sure I'm working hard and really concentrating on the things that I need to do, because it has been so long.”
Dubnyk will also be getting the opportunity to shine in an old WHL barn, where he and his old Kamloops Blazers squad used to visit.
“Playing an NHL pre-season game in a Jr. rink a little different,” he said. “I played against the Islanders a few years back in Saskatoon. It doesn't really feel like a Jr. rink as some; it’s a big rink. I'm sure it will be sold out and the fans will be excited, so I'm looking forward to it.”
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS 4 - BLACKHAWKS 2Jordan Eberle scored the game-winning goal late in the third period and Ryan Smyth netted a goal and two assists as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 in their pre-season road opener in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Tuesday night.
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OILERS VS. WILD
Edmonton’s second squad hit the ice at 10:45am, led by a newly mixed top line. Taylor Hall and Ryan Jones will be centered by Eric Belanger, creating a balanced mix of skill, size and own-zone awareness in the Oilers’ top-six.
“It's a good line to play with, especially to get the season going,” Jones said. “They’re puck-moving guys. I'll keep it simple, go to the net and I'm sure they'll get the puck there.”
Belanger agreed, added that each player’s individual skill-set should help their line have success.
“It's the first time that we're going to be skating together,” he explained. “But we all have to play our style. Jonesy (Ryan Jones) is a guy that goes hard to the net, plays down in the corners and is hard on the puck. Taylor (Hall) and I are going to try and make plays and use our speed.”
It’s been an especially short Training Camp this year, with the players having only three days to practice prior to the exhibition campaign. Even so, you won’t find many complaining inside the locker room.
“I don't mind it,” Belanger said. “It's time to play. There are a lot of little things, systems-wise that we have to learn, and the best way learn that is to play games. There's going to be mistakes made and now is the time to make them, because you learn from them.”
“We'll get our head around, as much as anything quite honestly, execution of the tactics,” added Head Coach Tom Renney. “It's pretty tough, at this stage, to pay attention to each individual play in video.”
Pre-season or not, Jones is happy to get going. Whether he’ll be paying attention to systems or enjoying the ride on the squad’s top line, it’s been an incredibly long summer.
“It's a long summer with missing the post-season and it seemed to drag on,” he said. “I'm excited to be back, excited to get things going. We've got a good group of guys going tonight and another good group in Saskatchewan. Hopefully we can come out with a couple W’s.”
Jones, Belanger and Cam Barker all have connections to the Wild organization. Jones was originally selected by Minnesota, 111th overall in 2004, but only played with the team’s farm club in Houston. Belanger played three seasons with the Wild, scoring 39 goals and 108 points in 214 games.
“I wasn't in the organization too long,” Jones remarked. “It seemed like as soon as I came out, I was gone. I live there in the summers, but the whole regime has changed since I was there. I still know a few of the guys, but there are no friends over there.”
Barker, on the other hand, had a much more disappointing experience in Minnesota. Over two seasons, he played in 71 regular seasons, posting two goals and 12 points in that span.
Following a disappointing 2010-11 campaign, his contract (the remaining year) was bought out before he signed a free agent deal with the Oilers on Jul. 1.
“I didn’t,” Barker said bluntly when asked whether or not the Wild gave him a clue about the impending buy-out. “There wasn't a whole lot of discussion there, I guess. You don't really know until it happens.
“But I'm glad the way things turned out. I couldn't ask for a better opportunity here in Edmonton. I'm really excited to here and glad that's in the past.”
WILD 4 - OILERS 3The Oilers orchestrated a three-goal second period to pull even 3-3, but Jared Spurgeon's late power-play goal propelled the Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 victory Tuesday night at Rexall Place.
Nikolai Khabibulin started in goal for Edmonton, stopping only four of the seven shots he faced.
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