THE TEAM TODAY: Friday Files
Hemsky & Whitney updates, Petrell's early impression & more at Friday's practice
Ales Hemsky hasn't seen any action in the Oilers' pre-season schedule, but the 28-year-old right-winger is inching closer to his chance.
Skating with Teemu Hartikainen and Eric Belanger at 10:45am this morning, Hemsky remarked that he had been cleared for contact during a post-practice media scrum.
“I got cleared today in the morning by doctors so I can take contact and do everything,” he said. “I skated in the last week and I did everything anyway, but it feels great and it's up to the coaches to see which games I’ll play.”
Hemsky, who’s never been a huge proponent of exhibition action, says he’ll keep his schedule light in preparation for Oct. 9’s home opener vs. Pittsburgh at Rexall Place.
“I would like to play two [pre-season games],” he explained. “In the past I never played more than three games, so I think I'm used to that; I want to get into it a little bit. I need to be conscious about it a little bit, too.”
The veteran winger has played in only 69 games over the past two seasons (22 in 2009-10 and 47 in 2010-11). Having been abused by his opponents in those injury-shortened campaigns, Hemsky is excited about adding some protection this year.
“Those guys are good,” he said. “Eager and Hordichuk can play, too. It's great for us.
“I'd much rather have those guys on our side than having to play against them. ”
“We didn’t have any chemistry,” the Oilers’ captain declared following his team’s 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks one night ago.
It’s not surprising, mind you. With 47 players remaining camp and six pre-season games still on the schedule, combinations will be examined as Head Coach Tom Renney searches for the proper mixture.
“You get used to guys when you practice with them,” he said. “You pick up your linemates’ tendencies, but the drills are really intended to get your feet moving and to help you pick up on the systems.”
“It's hard to build chemistry this quick, but you tend to see it a little bit. Smyth, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle have been together all through camp and they're doing well together.”
Seven players were assigned today, so expect more moves to come in the next few days.
Practice Notes: Taylor Fedun returned to practice today, donning the infamous red, non-contact sweater. Following a dirty hit to the numbers in Tuesday’s contest vs. the Minnesota Wild, Fedun and the training staff have chosen to be cautious.
The 23-year-old passed the ‘concussion test,’ so other than a mild contusion, he’s been given a clean bill of health.
Among those who were invited to Oilers Training Camp, none have made the impression that Lennart Petrell has. The 27-year-old centre has been tagged as one of Europe’s most impressive penalty killers, and is looking to bring his gritty game to the Oilers this year.
“Although these are exhibition games and we're not necessarily matching up against NHL teams, I'd have to concur,” said Renney.
“I like the way he plays. His teammates love the effort that he plays with. He's a smart player, he's got a great wingspan and I think that he's got some subtle offence that might not be coming really apparent yet, but I think will over time.
“I'll look at the body of work of everyone of who makes it down to the last little bit, and I certainly see him doing that, at the very least.”
Petrell was pleased to hear that he’s already caught the eye of coaches and management, but wants to make sure he continues his strong start as the pre-season schedule continues.
“I'm showing them how I can play and so far it's been good,” he said. “It takes a while to get to know the guys you're playing with and, of course, we play on a smaller rink in North America. The game is a little quicker than it is back in Europe, too. I've had a good start and when I get more games, it's going to be a good place to build on.”
“[Penalty-killing is] one of my strengths but I can also play a solid, two-way game,” Petrell said. “It's about balancing that; playing solid defensively and being productive offensively as well.”
Petrell spent 2010-11 with HIFK Helsinki, scoring 13 goals and 35 points in 65 regular season games. He was originally selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets 190th overall in 2004, but was unable to crack the Jackets’ squad.
With an NHL dream still within reach, he’s driven to snatch this opportunity.
“I've heard the stories of guys who have played here in the past, but it's something else to experience it on your own,” he explained. “It's been amazing. I want to do my job and start my own journey with the Oilers. That’s the goal.
“There's more to go,” he added. “I've had a good start and I'm really happy to be here.”
Based on today’s session, Ryan Whitney can now complete a practice without having to leave midway through. It appears as though he’s making strides, but the Oilers’ No. 1 blueliner is still struggling to heal.
The 28-year-old missed the remaining 47 games last season and is becoming more and more irritated with the slow curing process.
“10 out of 10,” he deadpanned when asked about his frustration level.
“It's still pretty much where it was, so that's a little frustrating. I planned all summer to be ready for camp. It's still improving, but it's taking longer than I thought.
"I'll get there. It’s about when.”
Whitney added that he wouldn’t push to return too soon.
“No,” he said. “I'm not going to play injured.”
OILERS VS. CANUCKS
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.”