The Edmonton Oilers returned to the ice on Sunday after taking the day off Saturday. The players were on the ice for a lengthy practice. The entire team was there with the exception of the injured Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios, Marc Pouliot and Fernando Pisani plus the ill Ales Hemsky.
Hemsky did arrive at the rink that morning but is still ill enough that he can't even start exercising again. He met briefly with head coach Pat Quinn.
"He's been hit pretty hard with this thing," said Quinn. "I did spend some time with him (this morning) and he's not ready to even exercise at this point."
O'SULLIVAN PLAYS THE POINT A good majority of practice time on Sunday was dedicated to the power play. The team went with some interesting combinations, including Penner, Gagner and Brule up front on the second unit (Horcoff centered Comrie and Nilsson on unit one).
On the point on the second unit, Patrick O'Sullivan played the right side with a rotation of Denis Grebeshkov and Taylor Chorney on the left point. O'Sullivan said that the point position is nothing new to him as he played it before with the L.A. Kings.
"I played the point in L.A. and in junior so I'm comfortable there. It's another option with Shelly being out," he said.
The added defensive responsibility that comes with playing the point didn't concern O'Sullivan either.
"The safety comes into play maybe towards the end of the power play. You want to make sure there's a D there when the guy comes out of the box but overall it's not much different for me. I'm not going to do anything risky," he continued. "I think I can skate backwards so that's okay."
"If there is a shot or a one-timer I'll try and take it but with the guys we have on that unit I think puck movement is what we want." ALL POSITIVES FOR SMID
Ladislav Smid is off to a great start this season, taking advantage of added minutes with injuries to Souray and Staios.
Smid is currently +8 which tops the Oilers and ranks fourth in the entire NHL.
"That's a shocker," Smid laughed. "I've got no words for it, but we are seven games in - it's a little bit too early."
"It would be for sure nice to beat Nick Lidstrom's record," he chuckled after being informed that he's currently on pace for +90.
He attributed much of his success to his defence partner and locker-mate Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky ranks eighth in the NHL at +7 right now.
"They do have that offensive flair to them, that's where it's coming from," Quinn said. "They did well."
The team arrived back in Oil town late last night after dropping a tough one to the Chicago Blackhawks. Oilers coaching staff did not have the team skate today however did call for a brief team meeting to discuss last night's game as well as look forward to tomorrow. Quinn commented on Oilers defence and what he saw from our forwards.
"Last night I liked four of our forwards out of twelve. The four were normally you people would be calling our forth line but the past two games they've been our first line. I'm still at the stage of saying this twelve has got to get better somehow, at least in the last game and a half." Quinn said. "There's the mechanics of passing and there's also the positioning of passing that's required and its also recognizing the opportunity to pass. Right now our defense are puck carriers first, passers maybe, after they run out of room. I'd rather it the other way, but we're not there yet. You've got to drill that in somehow." Quinn talks of the Oilers defence.
KYLE BRODZIAK RETURNS
Tomorrow will mark the first return of former Oiler Kyle Brodziak. Kyle was drafted by the Oilers in the 7th round of the 2003 draft. Last season he played in 79 games putting up 11 goals and 16 assists.
"I've got a lot of friends on the team that I'll be playing against. We definitely want to win this game and I want to play my best. Obviously under the circumstances, of getting traded, you always want to come back and show the team that hopefully they see that they made a mistake giving up on me." Brodziak commented on coming back to Edmonton.
"It's been great so far, there is a good group of guys on the team and so far it's been a great city for me and my wife to live in."
For the past few years, the Wild have been trained to play a very defensive style of hockey but have a big adjustment this season with a new offensive coaching style.
"It's a big adjustment, 90 percent of the guys are used to playing a sit back style of hockey and to totally come in and change it, there's got to be a bit of adjustment period but I think guys are starting to get familiar with it. It's just a matter of eliminating some mental mistakes and I think we're starting to grow as a team." Brodziak says about the new coaching style. CHORNEY ON THE BOARD
"The first period of both games I think I was spining a little bit, new building, new team. There was a little bit of nerves there but the more I settled in, the more shifts I had, I got pretty comfortable out there." Chorney said about his first game.
"It makes a huge difference, just one year. Coming into training camp your second time, just knowing the guys, the trainers and just being more comfortable. I think that adds a lot to your own confidence. It makes everything out on the ice a lot easier, just being comfortable around everybody." He said.
Quinn seemed impressed with Taylor Chorney's play on the road trip and that he will more than likely see more time.
The Oilers practiced today at Johnny’s Ice House in Chicago to prepare to face the Blackhawks tomorrow night. Steve Staios skated this morning and says it’s still day to day, regarding his minor head injury.
“The doctors know what to do but I have to make sure I’m honest with them which is sometimes tough. I’ve taken some hits before and felt some effects but it’s always been minor and this one is considered minor as well, I’m not putting too much into it.” Staios says after his morning skate.
Marc Pouliot did not skate today and will be side-lined for the next 8-10 weeks. He has been plagued with a sports hernia that will require surgery.
“We have been informed Pouliot will have the sports hernia operation Thursday. Unfortunately he has had this before in his career. He is expected to be 8-10 weeks. That’s a long time, at least not until after Christmas. “Coach Quinn said after practice. “I’m anxious to see them (Blackhawks) I have heard lots about their team. We know early on they struggled with their youth but youth need to learn how to play. They’ve made a coaching change and made really big progress. They play a solid game and they counter well so you can’t afford to give them the puck in bad spots. That’ll be a big part of our game plan.” Quinn says about the matchup.
KHABIBULIN ON YOUNG CHICAGO TALENT
Khabibulin is all too familiar with Chicago’s young talent such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and talks about what kind of players they really are.
“They are two young guys I’ve played with them for two years. (Toews and Kane ) From game to game they get better. Kane likes to score goals but likes to pass as well. Toews is more a greedy kind of player and can do a lot of things too, but also doesn’t mind to get his nose dirty. They are two different players but complement each other well.” Khabibulin said.
“Duncan Keith is one of the best defensemen. He has really developed his game. He is such a fast player and he’s always in great shape. It doesn’t seem that he makes many mistakes but I think he’s just so fast that he can cover up his mistakes. It’s very hard to play against him if you’re a forward, he’s always there. Also he can play 30 minutes a night and can do that on a consistent basis.” He says about defenseman Duncan Keith.
CRÈME BRULE HEATING UP Gilbert Brule is off to a quick start with the Oilers. He has played in all five games. He tallied his first goal at the home opener against Calgary and added another goal and assist last night in Nashville to bring his point total to four. Brule is averaging over 11:00 minutes of ice time per game.
“I’m feeling pretty good out there. I think the line that I’m playing on with Mike Comrie and Dustin Penner is great and I think we’re working well together. It’s just our second game in and we had a pretty good night last night in Nashville.” Brule said.
Pat Quinn is very familiar working with Gilbert Brule back when Brule played with the Vancouver Giants. He knows what he is capable of and is willing to give him a lot of chances to prove himself.
“Pat is showing a lot of trust in me and putting me out in all situations and playing me quite a bit even when I make the odd mistake which will happen. It’s great because it’s good for my confidence. If you’re sitting on the bench the rest of the game my confidence goes way down and it’s not good for my game and would hinder my game quite a bit.” Brule says about his game.
“This team is a very fast skating team (Chicago) and we can’t turn the puck over because apparently they are one of the best teams on the offence on turnovers.” Brule says about playing Chicago. Author: Kristi Hennessy | edmontonoilers.com
Well after the rewarding win over the Habs last night at Rexall Place, the Oilers jumped on a plane to begin their first road trip of the year. First stop is Nashville, Tennessee to face the Predators then onto the windy city to face the Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
Quinn and his team took to the ice late this afternoon at Sommet Centre in Nashville for practice. As we all know, the lines have not yet been set in stone and things can still flip for tomorrow's lineup. Quinn is still shuffling players and moving lines around to find the spark that he is looking for.
On the top line Quinn had JF Jacques, Horcoff and Hemsky together and Nilsson, Brule and Comrie skated together on the second line. Staios did not skate due to headaches still bothering him and Penner did skate but it is not known which line he will play on tomorrow.
“He’s coming along, (JF Jacques) he’s pretty cut and dry. He likes to get it and dump it in. He’s not going to do much spectacular with it in the neutral zone but it’s good to play with guys like that, you know what he’s going to do. He’s physical, he likes to go to the net and it was nice to see him get that goal so for him, it’s been a pretty good story so far.” Horcoff commented on playing with JF Jacques.
Patrick O’Sullivan, Gagner and Stone set the third line while Stortini, Cogliano and Captain Moreau formed the fourth. On defence, Grebeshkov and Gilbert were together, Smid and MacIntyre and Visnovsky was with Strudwick.
QUINN ON THE OILERS ROAD RECORD LAST YEAR
“I’d love to have our team play the way they did last year in the sense of the results. Certainly over 500 is something that is acceptable and used to be a benchmark in days gone by. You can’t tell today with the shootout and overtime stuff that we do. Certainly we won’t make the playoffs unless we’re as good there results wise as we were last year. This is a team that changes faces but doesn’t change its players (Nashville) its quick its hard working and we’re going to have to be ready to throw the hard work in too.” Quinn remarks after practice.
Last season the Oilers were 1-2-1 against the Predators. So far this year the Preds are off to a pretty good start going 2-1 with wins over the Stars, the Avalanche and dropping 1-0 to the Sabres last night.
Sheldon Souray is not on the team's two-game road trip. With Staios also not 100%, the team is contemplating calling a player up tomorrow.
"Very possible. We may do something on a precautionary basis," said Quinn. He noted that Souray's absence is being felt, particularly his leadership on this first road trip.
"He's a leader for this team. The guys like having him in the lineup, no question about it. His is that presence, people feel comfortable certainly in a physical sense." Author: Kristi Hennessy | edmontonoilers.com
Only a handful of Oilers took part in an optional practice at Millenium this morning. Staios was back on the ice after missing last night’s game. Stone, Brule, Comrie, MacIntyre, Gagner, Stortini, Cogliano, Nilsson and Deslauriers were the only other players to participate in the practice.
Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Wayne Fleming did not attend practice, Kelly Buchberger and goaltending coach Fred Chabot ran the practice.
After a disappointing loss last night to the Flames, the Oilers will have to regroup tomorrow morning before they face the Montreal Canadiens at Rexall. The Canadiens have had a rough road trip so far, losing to the Calgary Flames and then going down 7-1 to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
With the ten players who did show up this morning they worked on two on one plays for a while as well as their shootout skills. Players such as Staios and Stortini were lining up to shoot which is rare to watch as they usually would not participate in a shootout. STAIOS AND GAGNER TALK ABOUT THE HIT ON SOURAY
"I think overall the league needs to take a closer look at that, I think every defenseman will tell you that we have to go back for the puck like that like a dozen times a game. I don't think there is any need for a stick to be anywhere on a player going into the end zone even if its between their hands. I think it can influence enough where it can be an end board collision. I hope the league takes a good look at it and understand even the unintentional situations can turn ugly." Staios commented after practice.
"Obviously Sheldon is one of our best players and you never want to see that happen to him. I think as a group in here we all want to step up to the bell and help him out and help get that artribution but I think the main thing for us last night was to get the win and try to battle back in that game and get the two points and it obviously didn't happen so it leaves an even more sore spot." Gagner said about the hit on Souray.