THE TEAM TODAY: The Midway Point
Oilers' tough road trip, injuries & more hurt in the standings but not in players' desire
THE MIDWAY POINTEdmonton, AB - Following a seven-game road trip in which the Oilers collected only two of a possible 14 points, the team returned to Rexall Place Monday morning to begin a three- and vital-game homestand.
With three straight setbacks to conclude the roadie, the Oilers arrived back in Oil Country with a 16-22-3 record, 2-8-0 in the group's last 10, and with 35 points at the season's midway point; a step up, albeit a marginal one, over last year's total of 33 through 41 games.
Frustration, disappointment, anger and sadness all apply. But the Oilers know the only way to climb out is to work as a 23-man unit, work as team, and develop chemistry en route to victory, regardless of the bleak situation.
UP & DOWN
In addition to losing six on the scoreboard, the orange and blue also lost Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for 3-4 weeks, Jordan Eberle (knee) Tom Gilbert (day-to-day, also with a tweaked knee) and Ryan Whitney, who returned to the sidelines to heal his troubled ankle.
As such, the Oilers called up Magnus Paajarvi, Gilbert Brule and Ryan O'Marra to help cure the team's ever-growing list in the sick bay.
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"Attack the game hard and use your speed; he's got great size, great speed," said Head Coach Tom Renney of No. 91. "He's got really good work habits. Bring all those things and look for opportunity; beyond that, create it and prevent it.
"He's got the physical attributes to certainly enhance our team's needs. You want to be responsible without the puck, but you also want to attack the game; and we're looking for that more than anything."
"The standard answer would be by committee," he added with a chuckle. "Everybody has to step up. It's on everybody's shoulders to step up. We all have some responsibility here and no one should shun it. They should embrace it, quite honestly, and look at this as an opportunity to deal with adversity. We've got to make sure we step up. It's that simple."
Having scored 12 goals and 20 points this season, Ryan Jones couldn't help but declare his honest assessment of the situation: "Injuries suck," he said.
"We need to have guys step up and take on a little bit more of a role. With guys out and with the guys that we have, it's an opportunity for certain people in the lineup to show something that they maybe haven't been able to in the past.
"It's a good opportunity for everybody. We have to accept that and run with it."
LOOKING FOR MORE
Jones, currently mired in a six-game goalless drought, has been bumped to the second line to help generate more with the team's counted-upon veterans, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth.
"I'm going to treat it like any other game," said the 27-year-old. "That's exactly what I've done throughout my entire career; bring my lunch pail to the game, it doesn't matter where I am.
"We thought we deserved more points on the road trip, but at the same time you create your own bounces. Nobody gives you points, Tom (Renney)'s been saying it all along. We're playing hard, but we're lacking a little bit in execution, but at least you're seeing emotion out of the guys."
Renney agreed, adding that success will come, assuming his squad sticks together and corrects some reversible bad habits.
"I hope we went through all that crap for a reason," Renney said.
"We didn't get rewarded for it. We really have to press on and, in as much as we were outplayed in a number of periods, I thought we were our own worst enemy, too. The big thing is to stick together, play hard within the structure, push the envelope when we can and with what we're capable of.
"And don't beat ourselves."
Jordan Eberle buckled his knee in a collision with Dallas' Jamie Benn in Saturday's loss, but his status wasn't updated at today's practice.
"We'll wait for Jordan's MRI results to determine how long he'll be out, since I really would be guessing at this point in time," Renney explained.
Tom Gilbert was also scheduled to have an MRI today, but the results haven't come in yet.
- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick