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THE TEAM TODAY: Building Blocks

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The morning after defeating the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at Rexall Place, the Oilers were back on that same ice, trying to build on the effort that resulted in two points.

The full team participated in practice, including goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and forward Ales Hemsky, who are both suffering from groin injuries.

Head coach Tom Renney does not expect the pair to play in Saturday's game vs. San Jose.

Khabi needs a couple of real good practices and some good feedback with T.D. (Forss, athletic therapist) and Freddy (Chabot, goalie coach) before we make a determination there," Renney explained.
"[Hemsky's] got a little bit of a groin thing going and we're going to be really cautious there as well. So I don't see Hemmer in tomorrow."


Yesterday's win was a step in the right direction for the Oilers, who had dropped six of their last seven games, often by a large margin.

Though Renney admits the game "wasn't  a masterpiece," he was pleased the players were rewarded for their good intentions.

"I'm happy for our guys. They care, they want to do well, they want to play instinctive and spontaneous and high-paced hockey and do all the right things. You might get a taste of that a little bit when you're in our room, seeing what kind of a group they are, but on a daily basis as a coaching staff we sure do.

"They're trying to do the right thing here. Over time you can kind of get picked apart if you're not what everybody wants you to be, and having said that, I think these guys have done a really good job of sticking with it," the coach added.


With the exception of veteran goalie Martin Gerber, the Oilers who really stood out in last night's game were among the youngest on the ice. Not only did Jordan Eberle set up Taylor Hall for the game-winning goal, Gilbert Brule notched the opening goal and Theo Peckham provided an important injection of physicality.

"You score on your first shift, it's just a good feeling obviously. Then we score the next shift, obviously even better, and we just got going from there," Brule recalled. "We were rolling and we were skating hard and playing well."

Peckham credits persistence and hard work for his improved performance.

Theo Peckham

"Coming into this year, I of course wanted to prove that I can play in this league, but I also wanted to prove that I could do it on a nightly basis," the 23-year-old said. "For my type of player or for any type of player, that's really important and it's something I try to be good at."

Peckham's contributions have not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

"I just love it when guys grin after they've rocked somebody. I think that tells you how much that they enjoy that," Renney said. "You want to make sure you do it on a consistent basis because we need that look in this line-up from a number of people, if we can get it.

"We can't get pushed around, we can't get pushed out of games. It'll be a good challenge for us tomorrow night."


The Oilers will hope to see more of the same from Peckham, Brule, Hall & Eberle when they take on the Sharks Saturday night. Single game tickets are still available, so click the link below to secure a seat.


Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Jack Michaels



The Oilers took to the ice for a skate at Rexall Place Thursday morning, and there were a few notable changes, absences, and additions.

Firstly, Ales Hemsky was not present. The talented forward suffered an injury during Wednesday's practice, and there is no word on when he will return to the line-up.

"I'd call it day-to-day -- he's got a little bit of a groin pull," head coach Tom Renney later explained. "It's more precautionary right now than anything. We think we're doing the right thing under the circumstances."

Associate coach Ralph Krueger is hoping that Hemsky's absence inspires offensive contributions from other forwards.

"Hemmer's been our leader truly emotionally and with the puck, without. He's been a physical presence, he's been a very complete player here lately," Krueger said.

"What that can do is get everybody else to raise their game knowing there's a huge hole left behind with him not in the line-up. That can pull a team together, that can show our character and grit, and that's the kind of reaction we're expecting from the team."

Due to Hemsky's absence, Oilers coaches shuffled the lines into the following combinations:

Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Cogliano - Brule
Jones - Gagner - Paajarvi
Jacques - Fraser - Stortini

Cogliano is looking forward to skating with Penner and Brule.

"I think we had a couple of good games together this year, we've had some chemistry last year, which was nice," he said. "I just think with Ales out it gives me an opportunity to play with Pens and a guy like Brule and create some offence. It's exciting."

After aggravating some facial injuries over the past few games, Cogliano will play with a mask tonight.

"With the shots to the face it isn't helping, but hopefully things will clear up with my face over the next couple of days and I'll just feel good about my play and get going," he added.


Ladislav Smid

In addition to Cogliano's mask, another notable addition to the Oilers tonight will be Ladislav Smid. The defenceman suffered a head/neck injury Nov. 14 in New York and missed the following four games.

"We've got a really tough opponent tonight and I'm just excited to be in the line-up again," Smid said after the skate.


Another Oiler is also excited to join the line-up: goaltender Martin Gerber. The 36-year-old was recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons when Nikolai Khabibulin suffered a groin injury one week ago. Tonight's game will mark his first NHL start since April 11, 2009.

"It definitely feels great. I'm really happy about it and just looking forward to tonight," Gerber said. "It's been a while, so definitely I've got to be sharp and try to keep things simple and go from there."

Edmonton's coaching staff is supportive of the team's new veteran goalie and his journey back to the NHL.

"It's an amazing story: he broke his neck 11 months ago in Russia and they thought he was going to be gone, it was the end of his career," Krueger explained. "He's a battler, and for him to have an NHL game here tonight is a huge step from where he was 11 months ago."

"It's outstanding, he certainly deserves it," Renney added. "He's worked very, very hard, he had an excellent training camp, he's been everything you could hope for in Oklahoma City to allow that team to get some traction and feel good about their game. So he's certainly deserving of a start."

As for Khabibulin, he participated in today's skate, sharing time with Devan Dubnyk in the net opposite of Gerber.


Although the Avalanche have hit some injury trouble, Renney knows his club will have its hands full tonight.

"They're organized, they're well-coached, they're prepared, they like to play with pace and tempo too -- I like that. Their game is a north-south game and a transition game and they attack well. They're certainly organized on the ice and I think that's a testimony to the players, obviously, and the coaching staff putting it together for them," Renney said.


Despite giving up an early lead and finding themselves clinging to a 2-2 tie late into the third, the Oilers sent fans home happy Thursday night.

Following first-period goals by Gilbert Brule and Andrew Cogliano, rookie Taylor Hall scored his first career game-winner with only 28 seconds left in regulation. At the other end of the ice, Martin Gerber backstopped the 3-2 victory by making 35 saves.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Tom Gazzola & Bob Stauffer



With Tuesday's embarrassing 5-0 loss to Phoenix fresh in their minds, the Oilers were all business in an aggressive practice at Rexall Place Wednesday afternoon.

The skate wasn't without some drama: a pair of collisions rattled the boards, a stick to Ladislav Smid's face drew blood, and Ales Hemsky limped off the ice with an undisclosed leg injury.

"I don't think it's major but he had to leave because he did something. I don't know what it is," head coach Tom Renney later explained.


The mood was somber and serious on the ice and off, and both players and coaches agreed the team's effort, performance, and results need to improve immediately.

"Definitely not a lot of happy faces today," defenceman Kurtis Foster said after practice. "A lot of guys are disappointed with the way we played yesterday, especially after the way we played in Anaheim, where we got a good road win and we played hard."

"If you're giving up five goals against in a game, you're never going to win a hockey game, especially in today's NHL," forward Colin Fraser added. "It seems like we take one step forward, play good against Anaheim, and then think it's going to be easy the next day. And we can't have that mentality because every team's good.

"You've got to bring your business every day, be happy about the win that night but put it behind you, move forward, and be good again the next game."


The Oilers' struggles with consistency aren't new, and Renney continues to look for a solution to the issue.

"I thought we played pretty good in Anaheim and I thought we played pretty good at home here against Phoenix, as much as we let them come back and tie us," he said. "I thought we might have been able to kind of round the corner there, but this appears to be a big corner."

The coach isn't pushing the panic button, however.

"Nobody said we were going to win the Stanley Cup this year," Renney said. "It is a work in progress, and the one thing I don't want to see happen here is people bail out on this, on our expectation of becoming a good team as the season goes on.

"It's not going to happen over night and we've shown some touches where we've been good, and we've shown some times when we haven't been very good, and I don't think that should come as a surprise to anybody."

On his staff's coaching strategy, Renney was clear: "We're still nurturing, we're still supportive, we're still demanding. When we need to be, we draw a hard line. And that's what this year's going to be all about."

The Oilers will apply today's lessons tomorrow vs. the Avalanche. Limited seats remain, so follow the link below to secure your spot in the stands.

Get tickets for Oilers vs. Avalanche


Shawn Belle

Earlier Wednesday, the Oilers announced they have assigned defenceman Shawn Belle to their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. Belle was originally recalled when Smid was forced out of the line-up due to a concussion four games ago.

Read more: Oilers assign Shawn Belle


In the latest edition of our fan question series, John of Edmonton submitted a question for Gilbert Brule.

JOHN: "You're a guy who can play in a variety of roles. Whether you get put on the third line to be an energy player or more of an offensive role (including powerplay time), you seem to adapt well. Do you prepare any differently for games when the coaching staff mixes the lines or changes your responsibilities?

Gilbert Brule

GILBERT: "I always prepare pretty much the same way. If I'm on the third line, I obviously know before the game, and you just accept that role. Whatever they want me to do, I try to provide energy no matter what role I'm playing in -- I'm playing a two-way game, basically.

It's tough when the lines are changing here and there, but you definitely have to adapt quick and you just have to find that chemistry. For some players, it's not always going to come right away, it might take a couple of games."

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 |, with files from Jack Michaels

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