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The Team Today: Battle Ready

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers held a team meeting at Rexall Place Friday morning and you can bet one of the topics of discussion was the upcoming Battle of Alberta in Calgary Saturday night.

"There's always something special when it comes to Calgary and Edmonton, there's no question about that, and we have every intention of going into that rink and getting a win," Associate Coach Tom Renney said after the meeting.

"We have to go into the rink in Calgary and recognize that we'll do whatever it takes to win. And the bottom line is that we want the two points there and we want to make sure that we make a statement on behalf of ourselves."


That statement surely involves breaking the club's current 12-game losing streak and extending Calgary's slump into the double digits. The Oilers and Flames have gone a combined 21 games without a win, and something will have to break Saturday.

"I don't think it's a position that either organization wants to be in," veteran forward Shawn Horcoff said. "For us, it's another game to get back to winning ways, and it probably comes at a good time for us, a good challenging game against our biggest rival."

Jason Strudwick added that although the Oilers are aware of the Flames' recent struggles, they're focused on their own situation.

"To be honest, I'm not too worried about what really is the problem with Calgary -- it has nothing to do with our situation," Strudwick said. "They are ahead of us in the standings, and anytime you can try to push another team down you want to try.

"For us, it's not where we expected to be. I can say that as an individual, I didn't anticipate being in this position, and really when you look at it, it's only us that carry the responsibility for where we're at."


The Oilers will head back north after Saturday's game and will get ready to host former teammate Erik Cole and the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night

Author: Jen Sharpe |


12 Oilers took to the ice for morning skate at Rexall Place Thursday, including Mike Comrie and Gilbert Brule. Both forwards will dress for tonight's game, the first appearance in seven games for Brule and 31 for Comrie.

"It's been tough to be out and away from the team any time, no matter what we're going through," Brule said after the skate. "I always want to be playing and being around the guys, but I was out and not doing much. But I am feeling better now, feeling good and back to normal."

Despite reports claiming he was battling his fourth bout of the flu this season, Brule said it was "just some stomach problems."

Comrie's health situation was more severe: in mid-November, the Edmonton native was diagnosed with mononeucleosis and went nearly two months without stepping foot on the ice. He started practicing with the team early last week and is looking forward to contributing tonight.

"I think when you're in a situation like this, the biggest thing is to create some energy and hopefully generate some chances," Comrie said. "The first few shifts are important to try to get your legs into the game. I'm playing with some guys that are creative (Brule and
Ryan Potulny) and hopefully we can make some plays and get the puck in St. Louis' zone and do what we do."

Head Coach Pat Quinn expects Comrie and Brule to play their own roles tonight.

"Mike's a different player," Quinn explained. "We've seen him as a competitive player over his career, and he competes by getting those loose pucks and being an opportunist and making some offensive things happen.

"Bru, on the other side, is a developing player. He's got a terrific shot, he knows how to use it. His challenge is consistency, I think, and playing at a level that meets a good standard every night."

Two in, two out

With Brule and Comrie back in the line-up, the Oilers coaches selected
Patrick O'Sullivan and Zack Stortini as healthy scratches tonight. The decision, Quinn said, was made for different reasons.

"One of them certainly, Patrick, hasn't met the expectations of this coaching staff the last little while. We think he can be a better player. With Zack, he gives you the best every night, so there's lots of different reasons why you make decisions."

"It's not rocket science here. If there's 22 guys on your roster, two don't play," Quinn continued. "This is a place to start. It doesn't mean it's forever. We've got two guys that are ready to come in, and we want them to play, so we had to choose two ... Who's to say the two guys coming in are going to be any good? I don't know. We're going to have to see on that."

JD to start

In net, the Oilers will start
Jeff Deslauriers for the second consecutive game. After allowing a goal only 44 seconds into Tuesday night's contest vs. the Blackhawks, the 25-year-old goaltender pulled himself together and finished with 33 saves.

"They're at a point now where they both need to play and we're hoping that they continue to develop," Quinn explained. "I made a decision for tonight's goaltender based on yesterday's practice. One I thought practiced well and one I thought didn't practice so well."

Blues news

After dropping a 3-2 decision in Vancouver Wednesday night, the Blues held an optional skate at Rexall Place Thursday morning. Only a handful of players took to the ice.

Favourite Things continues

The sixth round of the Oilers Favourite Things charity auctions continues at tonight's game, with gift baskets by
Jean-Francois Jacques, Ales Hemsky & Ryan Stone up for bid. BLUES 2 - OILERS 1

Edmonton and St. Louis battled closely through Thursday night's contest, entering each intermission even on the scoreclock. In the final frame, the Oilers limited the Blues to only one shot, but that was all it took: Alex Steen's snapshot two minutes into the third period proved to be the game-winner and the Oilers suffered a 2-1 loss, their 12th in a row.

Dustin Penner scored Edmonton's only goal at 7:44 of the second period, while goalie Jeff Deslauriers finished with 18 saves.
Author: Jen Sharpe |


For the first time since being diagnosed wth mononucleosis, Comrie skated on a line for an entire Oilers practice. He played the wing with Ryan Potulny down the middle and Gilbert Brule on the opposite side.

"I'm starting to feel good," said Comrie after practice. "I think it's ultimately up to the coaches who they think are healthy
and the medical staff have cleared a couple of us to skate as hard as we can. It's good to be back on the ice."

Comrie has been out for 30 games. The road to recovery has been a frustrating one for him.

"It's been longer than I expected. I don't think you can wake up one day, the lights come on and you feel like 100%," he said.

Comrie left it in the coaches' hands on when he might be reinserted into the lineup.

"Sometimes you've just got to go play. When you come back from injury you've got to practice hard and get ready. Once the coaches feel you're ready to play (you get in the lineup).

"I've wanted to play for a month now but I've only skated (with the team) for about a week. When you go through an illness like I have you're not always the best judge of character. i love playing hockey and want to be out there as much as I can but the coaches are the ones who feel the players out and put in the lineup who they think is best capable of winning the game."

Quinn noted that if Comrie and Brule feel they're ready, he's likely to insert them into the lineup tomorrow night.

"If they are (ready) we're probably going to put them in," he said. "the other day we talked to Brule in the morning. He said he didn't have enough practices in."

With the return of both Brule and Comrie expected, Quinn finally has more healthy forwards than he knows what to do with. He remarked that he will use that as an opportunity to send some messages.

"You always talk about having a little bit of a hammer in the sense of if someone's not playing well you can either put them on the bench of up in the stands as a sort of incentive or disincentive," he noted.  "We haven't had that luxury at all. Even two days ago, we had a third of our lineup that should have been our players out. This will give us a little bit of room here."

On this day, it was Patrick O'Sullivan who found himself not skating on a line. He occasionally skated on the Brule-Comrie-Potulny line.


Last night, Quinn spoke about the recent play of Dustin Penner whose production has tailed off in the past month.

I would have liked to see him pound the guy he was opposite of, but there wasn't any interest in that," he stated after the game.

"It's how he's been playing the last two weeks, there seems to be a lifelessness there right now."

Penner responded after practice today to the coach's comments.

"I've got to see how I can get back to the way I was playing before. I wasn't being overly physical before, I was just getting pucks to the net," Penner said. "You have to look in the mirror and see if you can do better."

When asked if the team's performance could be affecting his play, Penner remarked that could be the case.

"The way we've been losing lately, we work really hard for a few games and we're so close then we have a game like last night. A lot of it is the mentality."

After practice today, Quinn agreed that fatigue could be part of the reason for his drop-off.

"At this point, Dustin does look like he's a little tired," he said. "We've played him a lot. A lot more than he's ever played before for anybody. Maybe we've drained the tank a little bit."


On Tuesday, the Oilers got a glimpse of where they want to be whe they played the Blackhawks. Near the bottom of the league three seasons ago, they now sit second in the NHL and are one of the top Cup contenders.

"That just didn't happen overnight. You watch them three years ago, they stunk. They were not a very good time," said Quinn. "They've made a lot of progress as a group. That takes lots of practice. It takes listening to what the instructions are, it takes execution. They've learned that. They've grown together."

"I was not unhappy with them being on the outside. You can have the puck if you want. When they come inside, you need to take somebody and we didn't," the coach continued.

Shawn Horcoff concurred with the coaches thoughts on where things broke down against the Blackhawks.

"You just try to keep them to the outside. That's what you do. Those guys want you to run at them on the outside so they can spin off and that creates openings."

Horcoff also acknowledged the difficulty in playing a top team like Chicago.

"They're a pretty good team. They've got three pretty outstanding lines up front."

Author: Marc Ciampa |
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