AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers held an optional practice Wednesday morning and 17 players participated, including Fernando Pisani. Among those absent were Dustin Penner, Sheldon Souray, Ethan Moreau, Tom Gilbert and Shawn Horcoff.
Quinn chimes in on Team Canada
After practice and less than an hour after Canada's Olympic Team was announced, Oilers Head Coach Pat Quinn and former Team Canada head coach reflected on the selections.
"We've got a lot of great players that are Canadians and they've worked hard, the management crew, for a year and a half to try to narrow things down, and I think they sure didn't want to miss with any picks," Quinn said.
"There's certainly some guys left off that we might think should be there, but I think it's a very good team that they picked. They didn't miss much, but that doesn't mean some guys that were in the selection group won't be disappointed today."
One of those guys might be Oilers leading scorer, Dustin Penner. Penner was rumoured to have been shortlisted to join Team Canada but his name was not called Wednesday morning.
"He's been outstanding for us for sure. I would understand that he probably had to overthrow someone, because I don't think at the start of this season he would have been on the shortlist, so to speak. Could he have been selected? Sure. He would have been one of the guys that deserved every bit of consideration that he got."
Penner was not available for comment, however defenceman Ladislav Smid, who did not make the Czech Republic roster, said he was "just a little bit disappointed.
"I think the defence we've got there is really solid and pretty good, so I hope I'm going to get another chance in four years if they allow NHL players play there," Smid said.
Focus on tonight
Although Canada's Olympic roster dominated conversations among the media at Rexall Place, preparation for tonight's game vs. the Maple Leafs was top of mind for Quinn and the rest of the Oilers.
"My focus is to try to be as good as I can be for this group here," Quinn emphasized. "We're preparing our team tonight to play a hard game hopefully, and to play it longer and better than we have been. We've been leaving some things on the table for different reasons. We're preparing like it's a game we're going to win."
"Our effort's been there, there's no doubt about it. We play physical, we play with good energy but we've just got to execute at a higher level," Assistant Captain Steve Staios added. "There's signs of it during our game but we haven't been able to do it for the 60 minutes."
MAPLE LEAFS (14-17-9) at OILERS (15-20-4)
Last 10: Toronto 4-4-2; Edmonton 3-7-0
Season Series: First of two meetings this season, with Edmonton paying a visit to Toronto in March. The road team came away with two points in both of last season's matchups. Tomas Kaberle had a goal and two assists in a 5-2 win by the Maple Leafs on Nov. 13, 2008, and Kyle Brodziak scored twice for the Oilers in their 4-1 victory on March 7, 2009.
Big Story: If there's any team that knows how the Oilers feel right now, it's the Maple Leafs. Toronto got off to a horrendous start, losing eight straight games and 12 of 13 to begin the season, but has since turned things around to get back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Edmonton was battling for positioning in the West until its current seven-game losing streak sent the Oilers spiraling to the bottom of the standings.
Maple Leafs: Rebounding from a tough overtime defeat to Montreal on home ice just 24 hours earlier, Toronto posted a character victory against defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Penguins fought back from three separate one-goal deficits to tie, but Leafs defenceman Ian White lit the lamp with 1:22 remaining for a 4-3 victory. The goal came just 53 seconds after Mike Rupp scored for the Penguins.
"I think we kept a quiet confidence after (Pittsburgh's tying goal)," White said. "We didn't get deflated -- and that's a pretty deflating time to get one scored against you. But we kept on pushing, had a couple more hard shifts, and it paid off."
Oilers: Defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky learned Tuesday that he has been named to the preliminary roster for Slovakia in the upcoming Winter Olympics. At this point, Edmonton needs some sort of good news to celebrate. On the ice, the Oilers have managed just a single goal in each of their last three defeats, and have scored just 12 goals total during their current skid. They outshot the Flames 16-5 in the first period on Monday but came away with just a 1-1 tie in what became a 4-1 defeat.
"We should have put some of those in and then the sad thing is we give up a crappy goal at the end of the period," coach Pat Quinn said. "It was such a weak goal and it took the steam out of us a little bit.
"Until we have the mental strength to fight through something like that, that is what is going to happen. We're going to have to find a way to turn the corner and not give up the easy stuff."
Who's Hot: White has three goals in his last four games and Jason Blake has scored in consecutive games for Toronto. Lee Stempniak had a goal and two assists in the win over Pittsburgh. ... Ryan Potulny had the lone goal in each of Edmonton's previous two games.
Injury Report: Of the Leafs' injuries, only forward Viktor Stalberg (upper-body injury) is close to returning. Defenceman Mike Van Ryn had left knee surgery and is out for the season, while defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (hyperextended elbow) and forward John Mitchell (knee) are also on injured reserve.
Oilers forward Ales Hemsky is out for the season following left shoulder surgery. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (back) and forwards Mike Comrie (mononucleosis), Fernando Pisani (ulcerative colitis) and Marc Pouliot (sports hernia) are also on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: In games following overtime or shootout losses this season, Toronto has claimed 12 of a possible 20 points. ... Visnovsky has played in both the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Games, combining for two goals, five points and a plus-6 rating in nine games.
Puck Drop: There seems to be no end in sight for the Oilers' skid, but as the Leafs well know, one victory can sometimes be the springboard to get the season headed in the right direction.