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The Team Today: Back to school

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


After struggling through a 3-2 win over Florida Sunday evening and enjoying a relaxing Thanksgiving Monday, the Oilers started their day of learning with an intense 90-minute practice Tuesday morning.

The practice was geared towards rectifying the issues that plagued the team Sunday night.
Despite registering only 13 shots through 60 minutes, the Oil squeaked out two points, thanks in large part to Nikolai Khabibulin.

The goalie credited mental preparation and confidence in his rehabilitated back for his performance.

"The only pressure I put was to go out there, do the best I can, battle hard, and try 100% every time on every shot," he explained. "I don't have to think about [my back] during practice or games or days off. It feels very good."

Excluding Khabibulin's strong 26-save performance, Head Coach Tom Renney pointed out a handful of areas for improvement Sunday night.

"I think we have to retrieve pucks quicker, we have to move pucks to a destination quicker, we have to support the puck quicker, we have to attack with numbers and more vigour, we have to shoot off the rush, we have to pay the price in that slot area  around the blue paint," he listed. "Just about every part of the game needed to be broken down so that we can draw some conclusions on how effective we were or weren't."

"I think we looked like a team that thought it might be a little easier than it was," Renney continued. "I think we underestimated as a team Florida's structure, attention to detail, commitment to their plan, to the point where it took us outside of ours and we had to rely too much on one guy to make the difference."

The message was strong and clear in the locker room, according to Ryan Whitney.

"I think we were sitting back a little bit and maybe got a little overconfident after the first game, so we've got to play a lot harder," he said.


The Oilers are looking for a better effort -- but the same winning result -- Thursday night. The team starts its road schedule in Minnesota, where success has eluded the club for 13 straight games. But Renney isn't paying too much attention to the Xcel Energy Center curse.

"I think what's really important for us is we look at it as the next great challenge for us to finally get to play a game on the road, which we've all been looking forward to," the coach said. "I know we'll be ready to play."

"We're getting away for the first time, away from here, and we get to travel together as a team and we have that dinner on the road and have the morning skate -- just the whole set of dynamics that are just different. And right now I think we need different."


Following practice, the Oilers players broke into groups and visited 15 local elementary schools to launch the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation's Share a Book program. The program is in its fourth year and annually provides 1200 students with 2500 books to support literacy throughout Oil Country.

Don't miss a report on Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi's visit to St. Gerard school on this Thursday's episode of The Link.

Jordan Eberle reads a book to students of Madonna Catholic School in Sherwood Park, AB on Tuesday, October 12, 2010.


Shawn Horcoff

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Danny Krauskopf of Kingston, ON submitted a question for Shawn Horcoff.

DANNY: "I am in the Military and as a team leader, I ensure that I lead by example. How do you as the Captain exemplify that on the ice, and do you feel your game or on-ice attitude has changed since becoming Captain?"

SHAWN: "I think maybe my attitude has. I hope my play hasn't changed, I hope that's been the same. I've always been a guy that puts 100% effort into every game and every situation when I'm out on the ice, but I think your mentality does change.

You know people respond better to actions than words, so you want to be a guy that's out there doing all the little things, making all the tough plays, and you hope that when people see you doing it, they're going to want to do it themselves in return."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.

Author: Jen Sharpe |



After holding two consecutive days of hard practices, the Oilers opted to go with an optional morning skate as the Florida Panthers get set to prowl into Rexall Place Sunday night.

While the skate was optional, most of the team participated in the session and brought the same intensity that we’ve seen over the past few days of practice.

There were a few notable absentees, including newly-named captain Shawn Horcoff, so the few line rushes that were run were generally a mix of all the offensive lines. Gilbert Brule skated with his regular linemates in Magnus Paajarvi and Andrew Cogliano, while Ryan Jones found himself in a familiar spot on the fourth line.


The common theme this morning was about maintaining the intensity that made the team so successful the other night against the division rival Flames. Tom Gilbert noted that the team needs to take that seriously and keep pushing to improve.

“We did a lot of things right but you got to look at  that it's just one game of 82. We can't be anywhere near satisfied with the way that we want to play our game. We have to come out the exact same way, we got to play just as well as we did last game at home; and we got to use this energy we that we've got in this rink to our advantage.”

Assistant Coach Steve Smith agreed and expanded further on Gilbert's thoughts of executing battles.

"I think, again, the key is the start for us. We've got to get on them quickly; we've got to make them pay the price early, and I think we did a real nice job of just creating battles all over the ice and winning battles all over the ice. That was a really critical thing the other night and I think we've got to get back to the same again tonight."

Forward Sam Gagner agreed with the assessment and says that the team needs to put an even greater emphasis on system play in order to continue their hot start.

"Just try to stay on the same type of things. We got to get off to a good start and keep the intensity up, but the biggest thing for us is making sure our system play is good and we're on the same page; and I think that's what was so good against Calgary."


While this morning’s skate was more of a warm-up for tonight’s game, the past few days of practice have, indeed, put that emphasis on system play that Gagner had alluded to. The bulk of yesterday’s session focused on special teams positioning and breakouts, while the previous day saw the team work extensively on offensive zone creativity.

The two combined should give the Oilers a good idea of what they want to accomplish tonight on special teams. Head Coach Tom Renney says the opportunities and possibilities are nearly endless with his group of offensively gifted players.

"The bottom line is if you're performing, if it's going, that you'll get that chance. There's certainly a possibility of having three combinations of people that can do some things. There's also a possibility of really loading up and maybe even doing something on the backend, for example, with a forward that might change the look a little bit; so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."

While the Oilers will be playing in their second game of this young season, the visiting Florida Panthers will be getting their first taste of the 2010-11 season after waiting for over a week since their last pre-season game.


Renney confirmed this morning that there will be a few minor changes to tonight's lineup despite the opening night success. While the bulk of the lines will remain the same, Zack Stortini will draw in for heavyweight Steve MacIntyre on the fourth line. In addition, Jeff Deslauriers will be getting the backup role tonight as Devan Dubnyk will be regulated to pressbox duty.


On the strength of 26 saves from goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin - many of them difficult - the Edmonton Oilers held on to defeat the Florida Panthers 3-2 at Rexall Place on Sunday night.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Tom Gazzola



While the positive energy and overall good vibes carried into Saturday morning’s practice, the plan of attack was much different in comparison to Friday’s session of individual skills.

The team participated in a much shorter one-hour practice, but competed with an incredibly high pace and enjoyment in the routine.

Rather than focusing soley on individual skills, one-on-ones, and offensive zone creativity, the Oilers worked diligently throughout the session on breakouts and special teams positioning; with the powerplay and penalty kill receiving equal attention.

The team skated in familiar lines as they have been over the past few days, although injured forward Gilbert Brule re-introduced himself to the fray and split time with fellow energy player Ryan Jones on the third line. At this point, it's still unclear if Brule will be ready to go for tomorrow night, but Brule remains optimistic.

"I feel pretty good. It was a good skate today and the ankle feels good.

I guess we'll see what the coaches want tomorrow. Everything felt good; stopping, cutting, everything felt good.

With Cogliano, Paajarvi, Brule and Jones all flanking the revamped third line, the fourth line saw an increase in toughness with the addition of Zack Stortini. With Colin Fraser centering both Stortini and MacIntyre, it was definitely a line made for the dirty areas and not for show.

While the tough fourth line is aware of its role, the hot topic of fighting in hockey crept up once again following the skate.

Steve MacIntyre delivered a knockout punch to Raitis Ivanans during Thursday's home-opener. (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)
MacIntyre's decisive victory over Calgary's Raitis Ivanans during the home opener received some negative press, but  he insists that fighting is part of the game and that there's no ill-will between combatants.

"I hope Raitis is okay. Obviously, you go into a fight and take that into consideration – it could happen. Obviously you feel for him, because I've been in his shoes. It was unfortunate, but it's part of the business. Like I said, I hope he's alright."

Up front, Shawn Horcoff, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall continued their strong chemistry and look to be improving their finish in the process. Eberle and Hall in particular were cashing  Horcoff passes with precision and ease, and appear ready to shoulder the offensive load against the Panthers tomorrow night. Eberle noted that, while his game and confidence is improving, he needs to keep an even keel and continue to support his teammates offensively.

"I want to build on my confidence and build on my game.

Obviously if they score, you're just as happy. We're a team. The more they put the puck in the net, the more we have a chance at winning. Obviously they're tremendous players and ther'es a reason why they're on the team. It should be a good year."

Ales Hemsky was one of the session’s greatest standouts after further developing the familiarity between he and linemates Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner. Not only is his offensive game in full flight, but his body language signals that he’s enjoying every moment of this young season as well.

Kurtis Foster scores during the Joey Moss Cup in September. (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)
On the defensive side, the pairings were constant and veteran Jason Strudwick remained on spot duty as he occassionally received some practice action on the third pairing; filling in for either Theo Peckham and Jim Vandermeer.

It would appear at this point that the defensive pairings will remain the same for tomorrow's date with the Panthers, and off-season arrival Kurtis Foster has been pleased with the early chemistry that has developed with partner Ryan Whitney.

"It was our first game together, we moved the puck pretty well and I thought we did a good job of just rolling six all night and it didn't really matter who was up. Didn't matter who we were playing against or who was playing against Iginla, we just kind of rolled the six 'D' and I thought everyone did a pretty good job.

We're just kind of getting used to each other and I'm going to try to the shoot the puck a little more; as much as I can."

As for the experience as the team prepares for its second home game of the season, Foster remarked that it was something he hasn't seen before.

"It was amazing. I had some family in town and my parents have been to a few rinks now through the years, and they've been to Montreal and they've been to Toronto, but I don't think anyone touches what it was like the other night when we scored a couple third period goals and had that big fight from Mac."

The practice ended with a bit of fun and light-hearted competition as the team broke into two groups and had a full-team shootout competition. Whenever a goal was scored or a save was made for one team, the other had to take part in some heart-pumping skating as a punishment.

Much to the surprise of everyone on the ice, notable goal-scorers Ladislav Smid and Jason Strudwick gave their teams a boost with some slick moves that fooled Deslauriers and Dubnyk. Taylor Hall, among other offensive forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Gilbert Brule, failed to capitalize on their chances and became entirely too exhausted from the punishment skates to perform the moves they wanted.

When all was said and done, everyone had fun. Again. The mood around the rink continues to be infectious and the players are loving every minute of the atmosphere.

The Oilers will hold in an optional skate tomorrow morning as they prepare to take on the Florida Panthers tomorrow evening at Rexall Place. Great seats are still available!

  Purchase tickets for tomorrow night


In a week of firsts for the Oilers organization, we're on location in Oklahoma City to get the inside scoop on the Barons historic season opener.

Taylor Chorney, Alexandre Giroux & Head Coach Todd Nelson talk about tonight's game.


Jordan Eberle's first NHL goal.

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Veronica of Regina, SK submitted a question for Sam Gagner.

"Hey Jordan,I just want to say I think your goal was pretty amazing. I must have caught the reply like a hundred times! What did it feel like to get your first NHL goal? What was going through your mind at the time?"

"It was obviously pretty special, I mean anytime you get that chance - everyone remembers their first goal, you can probably ask anyone in the NHL. So, you know, it was definitely something to remember.

And the puck is still in my locker - not sure what they're going to do with it yet."

Author: Ryan Dittrick |, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola


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