THE TEAM TODAY: Blues/Oilers Skate & Recap
OILERS 4 - BLUES 2The Ryans (Smyth, Nugent-Hopkins and Jones) combined to score two goals and three assists, factoring in each Oilers tally as the home side doubled-up the visiting St. Louis Blues 4-2 Sunday night at Rexall Place.
Nikolai Khabibulin got the start in goal, posting 28 saves and propelling the Oilers to their fifth straight win.
AT THE MORNING SKATEFollowing a brief morning skate, the Oilers had a team meeting in preparation for the St. Louis Blues - a team who started out slowly but have played well as of late.
"We've been playing good hockey. Good enough to win games. We'd like to be a little bit sharper these last few games. A lot of turnovers," noted blueliner Tom Gilbert, who was quick to point out that the play between the pipes has been instrumental certainly with the last three victories.
"Our goaltending has been huge for us. When they're playing well, we have a good chance to win."
Gilbert also reflected on playing the Blues tonight. St. Louis had won three straight before dropping a 3-1 decision on Friday in Calgary.
"They're a great forechecking team. They come very hard. It's got to be really good puck control, get the puck moving as quick as possible. They're physical. The more we get the puck moving the better we'll be."
LIFE WITHOUT SUTTON
Awaiting trial for suspension following his hit on Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog Friday, Andy Sutton will not be playing tonight.
"He will be (missed tonight). We need to make sure we pay attention to how we want to play that area anyway and do the best we can and make sure those people who are engaged do it with a little bit of jam and fortitude."
The loss of Sutton means more opportunity for a player like Theo Peckham, who needs to play physical.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing, when he's in the lineup he needs to deliver with that part of his game, no question about that," stated Renney. "Against a team that attacks well like St. Louis does - and they do have some heavy bodies - the way he plays is certainly at a premium."
With the suspension to Sutton, Jeff Petry makes his return to the Oilers lineup. He was sent to Oklahoma City only 11 days ago but with Sutton's situation as well as Whitney's injury, he may now be up for awhile.
"Our hope was to put the best team on the ice that we could and if that included him, wonderful for him," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.
"We also recognized that we have an excellent coaching staff in Oklahoma City and the guy would play a lot of minutes and get lots of responsibility. It's not purgatory, that's just learning and developing, not just with him but with many others."
For Petry, at this stage in his career he knows it's all about development.
"You never know what's going to happen. One day you're here, one day you're down there. I just need to continue to grow in the areas that I need to."
Petry did not play badly in his time with the big club this season. In three games, he had a +2 rating and averaged 20 minutes of ice-time.
"I need to do the things that I was doing before I left, continue to do those things. Get the puck up ice, get back to pucks early, not trying to do too much. Make the simple plays."
Petry had an assist and was +1 in his two games with the Barons.
"I was only there for two games. Jumped right into those and felt pretty good down there. Team looks great, so it was a good situation."
Alex Plante was also recalled and will be arriving in Edmonton later this afternoon.
HEMSKY SKATES, NEARING RETURN
Ales Hemsky skated with the team for the first time this morning and his return could come as soon as this Thursday in Los Angeles.
"They told me three to four weeks so it's pretty much on schedule," said Hemsky. "I think three weeks we'll be at the LA game so we'll go from there."
The additional time off has helped Hemsky, who never really had the shoulder pain go away in the first place.
"I had pain there the whole three months and just couldn't get rid of it. Now it's feeling much better. I don't have the pain there. I'm feeling the best I have in a long time."
Hemsky is expected to play at some point on the team's upcoming six-game road trip and for coach Renney, any chance to get the skilled winger back into the lineup is welcome.
"It's been too long. Being without him for a game is too long. We'll see how it goes. It's pretty much on track. Once he's able to skate and participate with contact, it's a whole new ballgame for him, of course," said Renney, who added that he doesn't expect this to be a lingering issue throughout the season.
"I have all kinds of faith in our medical people. Bodies break down, that's just the nature of the game but I expect him to be there for the duration."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com