The Edmonton Oilers have brought a new attitude to the 2010-11 season; an attitude of enjoyment, pride, and fun to a locker room that didn't see much of that a season ago.
Today's practice at Rexall Place was another stone in the wall of change. After suffering their third consecutive defeat one night ago to the visiting Minnesota Wild, the mood around the rink wasn't exactly a highly spirited atmosphere.
But that's what makes this young squad unique in their approach to practice and coming to work each and every day. The concept of having fun is constantly instilled with a embracement from the players that has indicated a strong culture change across the board.
Rather than coming to work this morning with a downed attitude, the team picked themselves up and a showed a tremendous commitment to improving their game, while still enjoying the benefits of the new culture.
The players, while still accomplishing each drill with high intensity, were joking around with each other and enjoying the newly created atmosphere that this process has created. There's no point in getting down when the business, and the process, is just beginning. It was time to get back to work and prepare for the San Jose Sharks.
If there's one thing we can take from the first five games of this season, it's that the team will move forward and not let the previous day's events affect their future performances. Those are your 2010-11 Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers skated for approximately 40-minutes today, although much of the team remained on the ice for much longer to work on some additional skills without the instruction of the coaching staff. Although the practice was brief, the pace was high and generally focused on a few key areas: Line rushes and quick transitions. The team has been steadily improving its breakout since the start of the season and further practice and game-action time helped improve the process.
The lines were the same as last night, although there was one notable change on the blueline. Young defender Theo Peckham nursed a minor hand injury he suffered last night, meaning veteran Jason Strudwick was able to participate regularly in the drills. It's still unclear whether or not Peckham will be able to play tomorrow night.
Defenceman Jim Vandermeer agreed that the increased practice time has helped, but game-action has proven to be the true test, where the Oilers did have some positives to take from last night.
|Jim Vandermeer |
"The day before the game in practice, we really worked on faceoffs; getting five guys involved, making a bigger battle in the faceoff circle and it definitely paid off last night."
However, Vandermeer was also quick to caution that there was still room for improvement.
"They really took it to us on the powerplay and we knew we couldn't give them as many opportunities as the last time we played them, and we didn't do that. So those are some key areas that we've worked on in practice, made mental notes of it, and it definitely improved from last game against them."
Fellow blueliner Ryan Whitney agreed that the start was a letdown, but that the faceoffs were something to carry forward into Saturday night's matchup vs. San Jose.
"You can't give up three goals in the first period when you're at home. Other than that, we really kind of dominated for stretches and we've got to continue the way we played for most of the second and third into tomorrow night. So, we didn't play poorly but you can't come out like that."
"We got a lot of shots. We outshot them, we outchanced them, it was just a -- we didn't spend too much time in our own zone, which is huge. We've got to continue doing those little things; and really, the biggest thing might be the faceoffs. Just starting with the puck, it's such a difference and all of the sudden you're chasing it and you're tired, and it's a lot tougher to play defence. So there were a lot of good things that we can build on."
One night removed from his best game of the season and in the NHL for the Oilers, Taylor Hall was pleased with his effort against the Wild but says he needs to bear down more on his chances. Although he came close last night on several occasions, the talented winger wants to further refine his skills and start capitalizing on his chances on a regular basis.
"There was definitely some chances that I'd like to have back and just put it right where I wanted, but at the same time I'm getting in those positions to score and that's all you can really ask. In saying all this, I still have to come out and play the same way tomorrow night - I'm hoping to produce offensively and be able to contribute and put some points on the board.
I worked a little bit today in practice on just hitting the net and putting the puck exactly where I wanted, so hopefully it works out."
4TH LINE STEP
After having a difficult first two shifts of the game where the fourth line was scored against on both, Zack Stortini and Ryan Jones rode the pine for the rest of the night. Colin Fraser, one of the team's best centermen, got a few shifts late in the third to help balance the lines a little bit when Dustin Penner received a misconduct penalty.
|Zack Stortini vs. Minnesota Thursday night |
Head Coach Tom Renney was blunt with his answer on the decision, but insists it was the right move to maintain the flow to the game and to accurately send a message to the players.
"It wasn't a lack of energy. It was a little bit of missed assignments and maybe reading the wrong cues.
You need to get a message across. It was their turn and it won't be the last time that happens to somebody. There seemed to be a really good flow with three (lines)."
Colin Fraser wasn't happy about the decision, as he and his linemates wanted another opportunity to redeem themselves, but understands and respects the decision from the coaches.
"First two shifts and two goals against, obviously unacceptable and we didn't play again; that's the way it is and we didn't deserve to play again. Tom sent the message and I think that's okay too. Am I happy? No, but at the same time we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Yeah, you always want to get another shot at it. No one wants to sit there, but with that being said you can understand why you're not playing too, at the same time. I think redemption comes the next game, the next time we're out there and put it behind us. The bottom line is we've got to be better and we've got to come ready for San Jose on Saturday."
SHARKS IN OIL COUNTRY
Edmonton wraps up a quick two-game homestand tomorrow night when the San Jose Sharks roll into Rexall Place. There are still single and standing room tickets available for tomorrow night, so act quickly before they sell out!
Purchase tickets for tomorrow night
In the latest edition of our fan question series, Amanda of Edmonton submitted this question for Andrew Cogliano:
AMANDA: "How do you deal with all the fan attention? It must get crazy sometimes. What's the weirdest fan encounter you've had?
|Andrew Cogliano |
ANDREW: "I think you just have to turn a blind eye to it. There's some fans in different cities that heckle and want to get under your skin, but I think you've got to be professional and find a way to stay away from that.
For me, I haven't had any bad experiences which is a good thing; but the only thing I can think of is that there's a guy in LA that sits behind the bench every game, he's always yelling at players, and it's pretty funny. At some point you have to laugh it off and turn a blind eye like I said.
It's good when you're in the community that you have fans, and kids especially, that look up to guys like us; and when they come up for autographs I'm more than happy to sign things and talk about the season and the team. In a city like Edmonton, there's great fans and great people here and like I said, there's just fan support for sure."
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: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola