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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: New Additions

Oilers return home to Rexall, comment on cuts & more at Monday's practice

Monday, 03.10.2011 / 3:55 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: New Additions

MONDAY, OCTOBER 3

NEW ADDITIONS

Following a back-to-back road swing in which the Oilers halved success vs. Minnesota and Vancouver, the team returned home, closing the 2011 pre-season schedule.

Head Coach Tom Renney and General Manager Steve Tambellini went to work right away, cutting the Oilers’ roster down to 27 players on Sunday evening.

IN AND OUT

Among those who were assigned, six-year veteran Gilbert Brule was put on waivers. The 24-year-old centre will report to the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons on Tuesday at 10:00am, assuming he goes unclaimed by another NHL club.

Tambellini spoke with 630 CHED’s Dan Tencer on Sunday, commenting on the method behind Brule’s assignment and what Anton Lander did during camp to earn his role.

“[Brule was] competing for the bottom six part of our hockey club,” he said. “We need him to play some minutes, we need him to play some quality minutes; power-play, penalty killing and playing with high-end offensive players.

“These are important situations to help get his game back.

“Right now Tom (Renney) is looking for certain things.”

Lander, 21, scored two goals and four points in four pre-season contests, which was good enough for fourth-best on the team, behind only Taylor Hall, Linus Omark, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Through hard work, passion and the desire to crack this year’s squad, Lander made an immediate impression.

“When I was working out this summer, my goal was to make the team,” he said. “I worked hard this summer and there are still a few more days to work. It's hard work to make the team, but I’ve been excited the entire time.

“You have to believe in your ability. If you don't do that, you miss a lot. I'm really happy about this year.”

Tambellini agreed, adding that Lander has shown more than Brule in camp, which includes several, high-quality NHL-ready attributes.

Anton Lander is here right now and he's probably been one of our top forwards, I'd say, for the last couple pre-season games,” he said.” He's used to killing penalties and his faceoffs are pretty good at the NHL level right now. I think the coaches feel as though he's more equipped to handle what they need him to do.”

“He's made it so far,” Renney added. “It's a long season and anything can happen. He's a good teammate, he understands the game, has a hockey IQ that I'd suggest is very good.”

ON THE BLUELINE

It was a costly road trip for the Oilers, losing three blueliners in the team’s 4-3 shootout win over the Wild: Taylor Chorney, Ladislav Smid and, of course, Taylor Fedun in a scary incident that has likely charged the 23-year-old his season.

Under extreme circumstances, new opportunities arose. Jeff Petry, who played in 35 games last season, has made the club to start the 2011-12 campaign in Edmonton.

“It's good to start up here,” he said. “You can't ever let up, you've got to keep working day-in and day-out to prove your worth. I know it will be a tough task to stay up here, but I’m working hard and making sure that I’m doing what I need to do to be here the entire year. It's going to be a challenge, but I'm ready.

“I was working hard and battling to earn that one spot,” added. “To be here and to be in the opening night lineup is awesome. I hope I've proved to the coaches that I deserve to be here. As each day goes on, I'll continue go grow, get better and do my best for the team.”

Petry recorded a goal and four assists with the big club last season, adding 24 points with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons before getting called up late in 2010-11.

It was a solid steppingstone, but Petry’s camp experience has helped him improve leaps and bounds over last season.

“It's improved a lot since Day 1,” he said. “Each day on the ice you feel better, so I've got to continue to do that throughout the year and especially over the next couple weeks. It’s an important stretch to make sure I’m maintaining a high level.”

Jul. 1 free agent signee Corey Potter has also cracked the lineup. He played well throughout camp and starred in the pre-season with his dedicated, two-way style. Backend circumstances helped him secure a role, but Potter is thrilled nonetheless.

“We've still got nine [defencemen] here, so I've still got a lot of work ahead of me to make this squad.

“I think the pre-season went pretty good. I used my experience; I've been around for a while. I tried to stay calm and I think I stuck to my game-plan and played pretty well.”

WHAT’S NEXT

Following practice, the Oilers bussed to Jasper, AB where the team will spend three days bonding and practicing in preparation for next Sunday’s home- and season-opener vs. Pittsburgh.

-- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1

OILERS at WILD
AT THE MORNING SKATE


Following an emotional, come-from-behind shootout win over the Minnesota Wild one night ago, the Edmonton Oilers hopped on the team charter and darted back across the border, landing in Vancouver at approximately 2:00am local time.

As such, the Oilers opted for a noon-hour meeting at the team’s hotel, addressing the media prior to the pre-season closer vs. the Canucks.

Three players did skate this morning at the unusually chilly Rogers Arena: Ryan Keller, Gilbert Brule and Nikolai Khabibulin. The 38-year-old veteran netminder will start in net.

Tonight the Oilers will be challenged to cap the 2011 pre-season schedule with another victory. Yesterday in Minnesota, Taylor Fedun, Taylor Chorney and Ladislav Smid were all forced to leave and will be unavailable for this evening's divisional matchup.

Tom Gilbert, Theo Peckham and Jeff Petry will assume duty in this back-to-back encounter. Andy Sutton, Cam Barker and Corey Potter will draw back in to help cure the Oilers’ depleted corps.

“Legs won't be a problem,” Peckham said. “We're in the National Hockey League. If you can't handle playing those minutes, then you shouldn't be here.

“We're playing against a pretty much all-NHL roster tonight. It's another chance to prove ourselves.

"It’s exciting.”

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

Head Coach Tom Renney agreed with the excitement, adding that his incoming cuts assignment has become more challenging as cut-down day approaches.

“It's an important night for the guys that are playing. Those that won't will have had to have done their job in order to give me something to think about over the next few days.

“It's an exciting time. It's disconcerting for them, but for me as a coach, it's fun. You get a chance to evaluate guys under these types of circumstances. I'm really happy that Vancouver's playing a really good team.”

Indeed they will be. Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows will patrol the Canucks’ top unit, while Marco Sturm, Cody Hodgson, Mikael Samuelsson, Manny Malhotra and a host of others will provide secondary support on the attack.

It looks less like a pre-season roster and more like Vancouver’s opening night lineup.

“[Vancouver has] a very veteran lineup playing, and obviously they're a really good team, so it's going to be a good challenge,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who will be getting one last opportunity to showcase his skill-set in the pre-season.

“I feel pretty good. I can't be riding off of the last game. I need to take a new approach to this one. I'm very excited; this is my last chance to show what I have in the pre-season.”

Nugent-Hopkins is slated to play with Ryan Smyth once more, which has the budding 18-year-old especially excited.

“I think I've been doing pretty well in camp,” he said. “I'm happy with the way things have gone. I've had some great linemates to play with, and playing with veteran guys like that makes it easier to play.

“I've been playing with Ryan Smyth a little bit and he's a great guy to learn from. Even Taylor (Hall) and Jordan (Eberle) are great guys to learn from, too, because they went through this last year.”

RNH has said it several times over, but playing within his limits has helped him achieve such early success. The dynamically talented centre has notched one goal and six points in only four pre-season contests to this point.

Upholding that trend has become Nugent-Hopkins’ mantra.

“I'm going to try and play my game as well as I can and see what happens. I don't think I can be in awe [of the Canucks]. I need to take [Daniel and Henrik Sedin] as two very good players that I'm playing against, and try to do the best I can.”

Renney can’t help but notice his young star’s extreme skill-set, noting that he’ll need to bring that and then some tonight to earn his role.

“It's a good thing I penciled him in to play tonight,” Renney laughed. “He's done a good job. It will be good for him and he'll be an asset to us at the same time. We'll see how he makes out.”

FEDUN UPDATE

It was an ugly scene last night at the Xcel Energy Center.

Although the Oilers prevailed 4-3 in a shootout, 23-year-old blueliner Taylor Fedun crashed violently into the end-boards behind Devan Dubnyk, prompting screams to be yelled, medical personnel and an ambulance to attend to the young rookie.

As media later learned, Fedun endured a complex fracture of the right femur, which required immediate surgical attention.

“Taylor had surgery late last night,” Renney explained. “He's in Minneapolis now and he'll stay there for a bit. We're not sure exactly how long, but he'll be there for a little while, anyway, to recover and make sure that things have done as well as everyone has been told.

“I think he's doing fine. As you can imagine, it was pretty traumatic for him. He's going to have family around him pretty quick and we'll help him with that, too.

“We’ll certainly honour our commitment to him, in terms of being there for him and his family. The grey area now is how will he be as a player [in the future].”

No matter what the circumstance or best-case scenario, Fedun is looking ahead to a long road to recovery, sadly. A season is most likely, but further speculation wouldn’t be fair.

Whether it’s a year or longer, Renney and the Edmonton Oilers will be there, helping to develop Fedun’s special skill when he returns.

“He's worth it,” Renney said. “He's a great player. He's very intelligent, he's got high hockey IQ. You can see the wherewithal that he has on the ice with and without the puck. He navigates the game really well.

“We're still excited about him. That's the important thing. We're still excited about him as a player.”

Click here to send your get-well wishes to Taylor Fedun


OILERS 4 - WILD 3 (SO)

The Edmonton Oilers skated step-for-step with the lineup of the reigning Western Conference Champions for nearly the entire game, but three third-period goals by the Canucks handed the Oilers a 4-1 loss to conclude the 2011 NHL pre-season schedule. 

READ MORE >>


-- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
 
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

OILERS VS. WILD
AT THE MORNING SKATE


The Oilers’ game day morning began with a short, three-block walk to exceptionally close (and exceptionally gorgeous) Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, MN.

The squad suited up for a brisk, 20-minute skate, with coaches demanding pinpoint execution in the process. Following the team’s morning session, Head Coach Tom Renney addressed the media to discuss the weekend’s back-to-back set as camp winds down.

With 32 players remaining and two pre-season games (within 24 hours) still on the schedule, keeping able-bodied players around helps in the decision-making process.

Either they step up and exceed expectations, or they make the usually tough call an easier one.

BODY OF WORK

“That's the beauty of the race,” Renney said. “You're trying to make an NHL team. It's a battle and it should come down to competition, naturally. You play [pre-season] games for many reasons, and certainly one is the competition for jobs.”

Following tonight’s matchup with the Wild, the Oilers will charter out on a four-hour cross-country (two, actually) stroll to Vancouver, BC; the Canucks will play host tomorrow evening in the pre-season’s closing encounter.

For some, time is running out.

“It certainly creates a lasting impression,” Renney said. “You always factor that into the equation, naturally. You really do try to look at the body of work. You have to keep in mind, too, the level of competition that they may have played against up to that point in time.

“You hope that the right people are still around at the end to get that clear evaluation through [your opponents].”

Taylor Fedun is a prime example. The 23-year-old Edmonton native has impressed at camp, but his entire 'body of work' will be compared to recent times in which he’s gone head-to-head with higher-quality pre-season opponents.

“I wouldn't say I'm surprised I'm still here,” he said. “I didn't really know what to expect or what the stages of development would be throughout the pre-season.

“I’m trying to do the things that have got me here and have made me successful. I'm excited; there are only two pre-season games remaining and I'm still here. I’m going to do the same things that I’ve doing: Get back to pucks quick, make strong, quick passes, not get beat one-on-one in the corners and take care of the D zone.”

DON'T CHANGE A THING

Teemu Hartikainen is in a similar position, battling tooth-and-nail to lock-up a roster spot. The 6’1”, 215-pound winger has played well, but others have too, making the team’s lineup a tough one to crack this time around.

“I’m going to play my normal game,” he said. “Hit guys, drive to the net, play hard, play physical all the time and make sure the coaches know exactly what I can bring to the team.”

Hartikainen got an introductory audition last season. He played in 12 regular-season games, posting three goals and two assists in his late-season stint. He’s got a leg-up on the challengers, but there’s no additional pressure to succeed.

“I don't put on too much pressure. I want to relax and don't try to think about cuts too much.

“It's been pretty good,” he added. “In the 12 games I played here last year, I now know what I can do and what I can bring here, so I'm feeling better than last year for sure.”

When it comes down to decision day, coach Renney’s boardroom deep inside Rexall Place will highlight an individual’s resume across the camp's duration.

“The only thing you can do is give everyone a shot,” he said. “That's what we've tried to do here, is give everyone an opportunity to play so we can make an informed decision.”

But in regards to tonight, it’s an excellent opportunity to build on everything as 2011-12 nears.

"We're trying to play our system," he said. "But we're not X's and O'ing them to death yet."

OILERS 1 - CANUCKS 4

Anton Lander scored on a penalty shot and then again in the shootout to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory at the Xcel Energy Center on Friday night.

The Oilers were down 3-1 in the third period but late goals by Linus Omark and Ryan Jones forced the extra frame.
 

READ MORE >>


-- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
 

INSIDE THE OILERS