THE TEAM TODAY: Sunday Skate
Oilers take part in bag skate, Whitney close to returning, Hall comments on last night
SUNDAY SKATEEdmonton, AB - After dropping a 6-2 decision to their provincial rivals on Saturday night, head coach Tom Renney wasn't messing around on Sunday as he put the club through the paces of what was a very difficult practice at Rexall Place.
Renney's assessment of the practice, which included heavy skating with no pucks at the start and end, was very to-the-point.
"Diagrammed the very simple drills that we did today. Didn't have a whole lot of dialogue, just what we were looking for in the drills and go to work."
The head coach pointed out that these types of practices can often accomplish more than simply sending a message.
"You're looking for guys cutting corners, possibly. Or the reaction in general -- not that that's a qualifier," he said. "For me, doing wallies are fine and you send a bit of a signal but you still have to do the kind of things which invite battle and the second or third effort required in playing the game. I'm not sure how much second effort is required to go from here to there to there to there."
The players seemed to respond well to what could be termed a bag skate when interviewed in the room afterwards.
"Today's a big day for us, to go through what we did. The guys responded very well. There wasn't any pouting. Guys were just working hard. I think that's big for us to go through a bag skate like that and have everybody push through," said Sam Gagner.
"It brings a team together. The coaches demanded respect and we gave it. It's just a matter of continually doing that for the rest of the year and hopefully turn things around here."
WHITNEY AT 80%
Prior to Sunday's practice, Ryan Whitney took Coach Renney's drop-off test to see if he was fit enough to play in Monday's game if called upon. The blueliner, who's been out of the lineup since December 26 with a sore ankle, passed the test though both he and Renney had reservations about him playing tomorrow.
"Tomorrow or Tuesday," Whitney pronounced, stating that the tough workout from the drop-off test followed by a tough practice might set him back a day.
"I haven't practiced in a month, then I just did that," he continued. "I don't feel great right now but maybe in the morning. I'm leaning towards Tuesday but I could feel great in the morning, I don't know.
"I had that (the drop-off test) and the practice, so I'm dying."
"He could get away with it," said Renney. "He was right on the cusp of whether he could play or not. If it's not tomorrow then I don't see any reason why with another good day he couldn't play in Vancouver. He may be able to go in the morning. I'd like to get some feedback from him in the morning after what he went through today."
Regardless, Whitney has resigned himself to the fact that he won't be at 100% at any point for the remainder of the season. He said he was more like 80% at the moment.
"I think I can help at 80% so I'm going to do everything I can."
The defenceman noted that he hasn't seen any noticeable improvement since he was pulled out of the lineup on December 26 but figured he would give it one more try before deciding whether or not he was done for the year.
"It's not any better. I've tried taping it and stuff. It's helped a little bit. I'll try one more time this year and then hopefully I last the rest of the year," he said, adding that he will do everything he can in the off-season to try and ensure he comes to camp in September at 100%.
"When the season ends, I'm done. I'll seek some second and third opinions and go to the ends of the earth to see if they can fix it."
'WHERE'S THE GOALIE?'
A big story which developed on Saturday was Taylor Hall's on-ice comments following Calgary's sixth goal -- an empty-netter. Hall could be seen on the ice mouthing 'Where's the goalie?' -- comments he said on Sunday that he regrets making.
"A bit of frustration. We all want to win, we all care in here and to have that kind of result and effort we did last night isn't what we wanted. After that goal, I was just so frustrated at the whole sequence of events."
Hall was quick to point out that his statement was not an indictment of Renney.
"I'm not singling out Tom by any means, I respect everything that Tom does. It's kind of embarrassing on my part to say that. But we've moved on and talked about it and everything is fine."
Renney said that the comments were heat-of-the-moment and not a big deal.
"That's okay. He regrets that," said Renney. "Frustration is alive and well in here right now. It's an opportunity to curtail that and recognize that growing up and maturing as a player involves doing that. If you're going to be a leader on this team down the road -- and he will be -- he's got to be able to handle these types of circumstances and understand what we're doing here.
"He's so driven and so passionate. The kid's a stud, and not a dud. And I know which one I'd rather have," Renney continued. "That's why I had no problem with it last night. Sure he was P.O'ed at the call. I know what I'm trying to do, too. When you rationalize it it's pretty obvious what you have to do as a coach and he understands that full well."
Showing maturity at only 20 years old, Hall acknowledged that his passion is something that drives his game but can also be something that hinders it when he's not containing it properly.
"I think you have a pretty good balance of both. When you get frustrated and off your game that's when you don't play well. You have to play at an even keel. You have to worry about yourself and then work to play a really good team game."
THREE FOR THREE
The Oilers made some wholesale changes to the bottom part of their roster yesterday and today. The club sent down Josh Green, Ryan O'Marra and Colten Teubert to Oklahoma City of the AHL and recalled Teemu Hartikainen, Lennart Petrell and Taylor Chorney.
Renney hinted that he could use this infusion of new blood to send some messages throughout his lineup.
"I think the call-ups can step in and play. We'll see how people's health is in the morning then beyond that we'll make an assessment on who really could watch for a night or two."
--- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com