EDMONTON, AB - It doesn't look like there are any optional skates on the horizon for the Oilers.
If Wednesday's high-intensity practice at Rogers Place was any indication, the Oilers aren't about to let any skates remain optional in the coming days with only one game to play during a quiet 15-day stretch since returning home last week from a challenging five-game road trip.
"The last two days have been good pace," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "Today the guys worked awful hard, and they put in a good shift."
With nine players in COVID-19 protocol for the club, the remaining 15 skaters and two goalies went through the rigours of a challenging practice on Wednesday that featured plenty of contact and treks up and down the ice, including 1-on-1 rushes and close-quarters scrimmages between pairs of teammates in the circle.
"I liked it. I thought the practice was good," captain Connor McDavid said following the session. "We got up and down the ice and battled against each other, which I thought was good and is something that's necessary when we're only going to play one game in 15 days."
Video: RAW | Connor McDavid 01.12.22
"These practices are big for us. We've got to go hard at each other, play each other as close to game-like as you can, and get ourselves prepared and ready to go."
Monday and Tuesday's optional practices were also well-attended as players take every advantage of ice time to stay in game shape for when the schedule slowly resumes on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators before the games start coming thick and fast in February.
"We had optional practices the last two days, and we had a lot of guys out there wanting to make sure their legs and hands are staying where they should be," Tippett said. "Players are cognizant of that, but it's a balance. There are times when you need rest, and there are times when you need to keep yourself up and running."
Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 01.12.22
The rest and recuperation were much-needed for the Oilers following their last road trip of five games in eight days that yielded two out of a possible 10 points and left plenty of players with tired bodies.
But just like how the players were able to take a step back after arriving back in Edmonton from their challenging road trip, now is the time to put the foot back on the pedal and push forward.
"We went through a tough stretch there playing a lot of games in a few days with lots of travel and not a lot of practice time," Tippett added. "But now, with that being said, you're sitting around for a few days and guys want to get up and going."