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The Team Today: Battling through

by Kristi Hennessy / Edmonton Oilers



The Oilers were called to a team meeting this morning at Rexall Place to discuss the situation of the flu spreading around the Oilers room and the NHL for that matter. The Oilers confirmed late last night that Ladislav Smid had been tested for the H1N1 swine flu and they found that he does in fact have it. Since the swine flu shot is not yet available to the Edmonton Oilers, the team must put some preventative measures in play and make sure it doesn't spread any further.

After the 9:45am meeting, the team took to the ice for practice. They go back to the drawing board to patch some holes and find the missing puzzle pieces of their game.

Lubomir Visnovsky did not attend practice this morning as he had flu symptoms in last night's game and left in the third period. Although he has not been tested and it is not confirmed, he is being treated for the H1N1 swine flu at this time.

Fernando Pisani on the other hand did attend practice today. He stayed on the ice after everyone was finished. He says he is feeling good and looks forward to getting back as soon as possible.

"Yesterday was my first practice with the team and it felt good. I think everyday its going to get better and better. I haven't had any issues with the back so that's a positive sign. Now it's just a matter of getting my timing down and getting back on the ice." said Pisani.

"I feel good, but like I said, I've only had two practices. Today was a good state, and I felt good. I just want to get some practices in and see how I feel. The last thing you want to do is jump into a game and not feel like your cardio is there or your timing is there because then you feel like you're catching up all the time." he said.


Smid along with a handful of other players have been hit with flu-like symptoms. Gilbert Brule, Lubomir Visnovsky, Denis Grebeshkov, and Mike Comrie all had flu-like symptoms. The problem now is following procedures. Alberta Health says they do not swab for H1N1 unless the patient is hospitalized. If you go to a public clinic to get tested, you don't see the results for six to seven days.

"They did swab two of our players and the other player showed negative although he had flu like symptoms."  said Quinn.

This other player he refers to is Gilbert Brule who missed three games with a strain of the flu.

"When its available (swine flu shot) they will be getting the shot. In Alberta we have not been allocated the serum at this point. It is not available although the public were able to lineup but we haven't asked our players to lineup with the public at this point."

Author: Kristi Hennessy |


In the surprisingly warm confines of Rexall Place, the Oilers followed up their thrilling come-from-behind win over the Blue Jackets with a short 11am practice.

In what has become the norm in recent weeks, injuries and illness kept seven players off the ice. Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios, Ryan Stone, Fernando Pisani, and Marc Pouliot continued to suffer from their various ailments, while Gilbert Brule remained out with the flu. Mike Comrie, who missed Thursday's morning skate due to a fever but played that night, was also absent.

"Mike is still sufferent a little bit of the after effects of being ill yesterday, and so he's staying home today," Head Coach Pat Quinn explained. "If Mike can't come down to Calgary tomorrow, then there's a good chance Jason (Strudwick) will be lined up at forward."

On the topic of Brule's status for this weekend's road games, Head Coach Pat Quinn was uncertain. "Our training staff said that he might join us on the trip in practice, but we haven't been confirmed of that yet.

"[The trainers] are very cautious with this, obviously -- as they should be," Quinn continued. "This seems to be a very serious thing. At the same time, they're probably looking at a lot of stuff here. It might not just be only the flu symptoms, although that's what we've been told at this point."


With the Oilers line-up depleted, Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger played an active role in a few powerplay drills. Although he was wearing a track suit and white ball cap, the former Oilers captain and Stanley Cup winner didn't look too out of place on the ice.


Dustin Penner's five-point performance the previous night was the topic du jour in the locker room after practice.

We're proud of him, he's played great, but he hasn't really surprised anybody. We know how good he can be," captain Ethan Moreau said. "That's pro sports for you. It's amazing how things can turn around. And it shows you his mental strengths. It could went the other way and felt sorry for himself after everything -- after last year, the trade stuff."

Penner admitted he was overwhelmed by fan reaction, including a standing ovation after his second goal, and hopes to continue giving them something to cheer about.

"It was a pretty special moment," he said. "I wish I could recapture that feeling whenever I wanted just by snapping my fingers. Hopefully if I continue to play the way I have been, maybe those nights will be more frequent.

"My confidence is pretty high right now, but with that you have to worry that you're not bordering on thinking too offensively and being too content with everything. You've got to keep pushing."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


Wednesday morning started bright and early with a team autograph signing at Rexall Place. With coffees in hand, each player sat down to sign 250 player cards for the Rally Against Cancer.

The cards will be attached to brand new Oilers fan scarves that will be sold by the Oilers Ladies at the home game on October 29. Each scarf and associated player card will be sold for $20, with all proceeds going to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation in support of cancer research.


The practice was rather scarce with several players feeling under the weather or injured.  So how big of a frustration is this for players around the room?

"It's not just our team that's going to be effected by it.  You just try and keep as clean as you can and try to stay hydrated, and stay out of each others faces!" O'Sullivan smirked about the bug going around.

The players who did not skate were: Smid, Souray, Stone, Pisani, Brule, Pouliot and Staios. With that said the lines were quite scattered today.

"Our medical staff is trying to stay right on top of it, making the right decisions with regards to regular vaccinations and H1N1 vaccinations. We are sure that all of this is just the ordinary flu at least that's the way they are going about it." Quinn said about the flu bug going around.


Skating on the top line today was Penner with Gagner and Hemsky. The second line was Comrie, Horcoff and O'Sullivan. Stortini, Cogliano and Moreau were together on what looked like the third line and the forth line was short a player but had Nilsson and Jacques and hopefully will have Brule for tomorrow.

"We are still trying to figure out who we are and who can play with who and how we can be best be 20 guys, how we can best be a team." Quinn said about his lines.

The Oilers have struggled with shot differential in the last few games, Quinn says that although he is aware and concerned about the shot differential, he doesn't think it's the key stat to be looking at.

"As far as the shots go, I am worried about differential. I'm not always believed that you have to have X number of shots to be a good team nor giving up so many." Quinn said.

"That particular statistic is not something you look at first, but I am certainly aware of two of the games that I didn't like. The one the other night against Minnesota there was a shot inbalance there. At the end of the night, the stat I really worry about is chances, and we were ahead of them by a good margin."



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."


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."


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."

Author: Marc Ciampa |

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