THE TEAM TODAY: Ready to Rebound
Krueger looks back at last night and looks ahead to Sunday, Petry talks about his improved play and Peckham discusses his potential return
READY TO REBOUNDEdmonton, AB - On the heels of a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the Edmonton Oilers took part in an off-ice workout on Saturday at Rexall Place.
Associate Coach Ralph Krueger reflected once again on the game.
"You have to compliment them, they played the perfect road game. They took the crowd out with that late first period goal, which was our undoing and really shut it down after that. They didn't make a lot of mistakes, they protected the valuable ice in front of their net with a passion," he said. "We weren't disastrous but they were just the smarter team the way they shut us down."
Krueger hinted at some lineup changes when the Oilers take on the Vancouver Canucks at home tomorrow night.
"Vancouver comes in here with a feeling of having to win. It's important for us to play much more solid defensively as a group. The team defence was missing at times last night. We looked young, with some of our offensive rushes without proper support going the other way."
Although he didn't say what the changes could be, the hints were that they could be wholesale, perhaps Nikolai Khabibulin in goal and the additions of Darcy Hordichuk and Theo Peckham.
"There will be some changes in the lineup. We're going through that today, everybody will see it when we take the ice against Vancouver."
The Oilers have had success against the better teams in the league this season, a fact not lost on Krueger.
"It could be that we still want to play a little bit more when we play against teams that we think are equal to us. Or maybe the respect goes down so the offence goes up. I think it's a defensive mindset that we bring against the top teams that brings a better team game. We've got 25 games to go here, we're learning what it takes to get Ws against anybody.
"There's no easy nights in the National Hockey League and I think we're learning that step-by-step here."
One of the real bright spots for the Oilers over the past month has been the play of 24-year-old defenceman Jeff Petry. Petry has played incredibly well as of late, with nine points in his last 14 games.
"Jeff's just maturing, in front of our eyes. The focus is on the kids up front but that's a kid on the back end, if you look at the two years of progress, it's been exciting to work with Jeff," said Krueger.
"He's an honest kid, a great team player and he's very coachable. He's just working extremely hard at all aspects of the game. He will eventually be a top two defenceman in the National Hockey League for a long, long time."
Petry has shown glimpses of that already, being arguably the team's best defenceman since Tom Gilbert went down in early January.
"The opportunity to play against the other top lines has been a new one since Tommy Gilbert's injury and he's handled that well," Krueger added.
Petry had a stretch prior to his current one where he had two points in 13 games and was -14.
"It was just a matter of confidence and a matter of feeling comfortable to join the rush and not be afraid to make a mistake," said Petry. "I've got the support from Laddy, playing with him, and the coaching staff to jump up and create that extra look on the attack."
The blueliner added that not looking over his shoulder as the next player to be relegated to the press box has helped.
"Just knowing that you're not worried about gripping your stick too tight or being afraid to make a mistake, it's something that gives you the ability to go out and play, for lack of a better word, worry-free hockey."
After missing the team's last seven games with an injury, Theo Peckham is itching to get back in the lineup.
"It's feeling pretty good," he said of the facial injury. "Any time you miss a couple weeks of hockey it's definitely tough to get back in. I've been practicing hard and waiting for my chance to get back in."
It was mainly a string of bad luck which caused him to be out of the lineup last time.
"There were two (incidents). I got cross-checked in the face by Galiardi against Colorado then deflected the puck into my own face the next morning in practice. Tough couple days," he stated. "I think I caught a bit of a flu, too, so it wasn't my best 48 hours.
As for when he returns, Peckham stated that decision is now in the coach's hands.
"It's their decision I haven't been in the lineup for the last game or so. If they decide to put me in, I'll work my hardest to show some consistency and do the things I have to do but if they decide having me out is best for the team that's something I have to live with."
Peckham added that regardless of what the decision is, he needs to work hard and stay positive.
"Just maintain a good attitude, work hard in practice and wait for my chance."
The imminent return of Corey Potter from a groin injury will make it that much more difficult for Peckham to draw back in.
"With Pottsy's groin healing up there it's going to be tough to get in and when you get in it's going to be tough to get good minutes so you have to show how much you want it and how much you deserve to be there."
Peckham, who's often roommates with Potter when the team's on the road, joked that he may need to engage in some trickery to find his place in the lineup.
"Maybe I'll slip something into Pottsy's food to try and get some playing time here."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com