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The Team Today: Call-ups Continue

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers took the ice in Edmonton suburb Sherwood Park at around noon Thursday, but a handful of players didn't participate.

According to Head Coach Pat Quinn, team staff decided that players who have been carrying the bulk of the ice time in recent games deserved the day off.

"We looked at the time on ice with all the games this week that we had to play, four in six I think it is, we decided that the guys that logged 20 or more in the games up to this point would be better off not having to work out today," he said.

Other notable absentees were goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who continues to suffer from a sore back, and Ales Hemsky. The Oilers confirmed that Hemsky suffered an upper body injury during Wednesday's game vs. L.A., and Quinn said an MRI is scheduled.

"We haven't had any report, but I'm pretty sure there's an MRI today when they have the opportunity," the Coach stated. "He's not expected to be available for a little bit anyway."


With Hemsky out indefinitely, the Oilers recalled forwards Ryan O'Marra and Colin McDonald Thursday morning. They also loaned Liam Reddox back to Springfield.
On the topic of Reddox, Quinn confirmed that his play had dropped off as of late and that he would benefit from a stint in the AHL.

"He came up and gave us some games early that were really good and then slipped off from the defensive standpoint, where we expected him to be good," said Quinn. "He had a couple of errors that were around him and for some reason he didn't play with the same confidence in the last couple (of games).

"We were going to just call one up, probably O'Marra, but with Hemsky going out, these are the guys that our coaching staff and scouts down there recommend to come in and fill the vacancies."


O'Marra and McDonald aren't the only noteworthy players who will arrive in Edmonton over the next few hours: the San Jose Sharks -- including forward Dany Heatley -- are also eagerly anticipated.

This past summer, the Oilers' reported efforts to trade Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner, and Ladislav Smid for Heatley dominated hockey headlines in Alberta and beyond. Friday's game will mark Heatley's first appearance in Edmonton since the trade saga concluded.

"If he's going to be in the corner with the puck, I'm going to try to run him over. But I try to do it every game with other players. I've got no hard feelings towards him," Smid said. "I was just happy to stay here and be a part of the Oilers. I was just happy he didn't decide to come here."


It's been six days since Khabibulin missed his first game due to injury and, accordingly, five days since Devan Dubnyk first filled the back-up role for the Oilers. The Falcons' starter is used to playing a lot of games, but he isn't complaining about his new-found position on the Oilers' bench once the puck drops.

"The American League is kind of a weekend league, so I played on Saturday and usually I'd be getting ready, geared up to play tomorrow. So if it goes a while, then it might get a little weird, but right now I'm just happy to be here and enjoying the time on the ice.

"It's pretty exciting to get the first call and I've been getting worked pretty hard at practice but that's what I'm here for," Dubnyk said. "I want to take every opportunity I can to be on the ice with these guys while I'm up here. It's been fun, a lot of hard work, and I'm enjoying every minute."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


On the heels of their first shutout of the season, the Oilers took to the ice at Clareview Arena Tuesday morning for a short team practice.

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was the most notable absentee, with Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk manning the nets during the drills.

"Khabibulin was not able to practice today. I don't know how long this is going to last so Deslauriers has the games for now," said Quinn.

Taylor Chorney and Marc Pouliot also missed practice due to injury, however the return of forwards Ryan Stone and Robert Nilsson kept numbers high on the ice.


After pulling out all the big stops last night and earning himself his first career shutout, Jeff Deslauriers was the talk of the dressing room today. His teammates had nothing but compliments to dish out.

"He came out and gave us the game that we needed,"
said Shawn Horcoff. "He was solid in there and made some great saves and earned the shut out. He's going to be a big part of our success in the near future."

"He (Deslauriers) was right in the zone last night," said Coach Pat Quinn. "This is a young man that our management feels very positive about. We're happy with his progress."

"He's played well all year and it's nice to see him get a shutout," said Patrick O'Sullivan. "I'm sure he feels good about that. It's a pretty special feeling. You can probably relate that to scoring your first goal but for a goalie. He works hard in practice every day. He is committed to being better."

Author: Kristi Hennessy |


The Oilers were called to a rare 9am meeting Sunday morning, and for seven players, it stretched to a 90-minute forum with Head Coach Pat Quinn. While most of the players were sent home shortly after arriving at Rexall Place, Ethan Moreau, Sheldon Souray, Shawn Horcoff, Steve Staios, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, and Nikolai Khabibulin stayed on for the lengthy discussion.

Although the specifics of the meeting weren't shared, all confirmed that it was a productive, open, and honest communication between the coach and players.

We were in there for a while, so we went over probably everything imaginable you can think of," Horcoff said shortly after leaving the meeting. "It's a good thing to do, for us to vent. He vented on us about some things that we needed to hear and we let him know what we're seeing also.

"It works back and forth, and I think it's nice to have that. It's nice to have an open philosophy. We're all professionals in here. The meeting was real positive but at the same time, it's not like you're adverse to hearing negative things. A lot of times you need to hear that in order to get things turned around."

"Communication is great --
it's very important in sports and any walk of life," Moreau added. "(Quinn is) a good communicator and it was a good morning to talk about things.

"We should do it more than we do. It's just that everyone is so busy and your schedule gets so hectic and sometimes you just don't want to do it, you don't have the energy for it, but in any successful organization, that happens."

Associate Coach Tom Renney agreed with the veterans and emphasized that such meetings are integral to successful coaching and improving the team.

"This is our team, and we have an obligation as coaches to help these guys improve, help our team improve, play better, do what we can to help them get wins, and enjoy an exciting, well-intentioned hockey season," he said.

"Every season you build, and you build it a game at a time and you build your games a period at a time, and sometimes they're pretty good and other times not . . . It takes time, and I hate to say it because it's a cliche, but your season is a process. And you sort of start with the end in mind, we know what we want to look like as a finished product, but in the meantime there's an awful lot of work to do."


Nikolai Khabibulin
After missing Saturday's game vs. his former club due to a nagging back, Nikolai Khabibulin updated the media on his progress Sunday morning.

"Two days ago, I felt really good. All of a sudden (Saturday) morning, it just felt tight and just kind of progressed a little bit," he explained. "I don't know what it is . . . I had an injury, or I don't know what to call it, a couple of years ago, but I never had anything since then so I don't know if it's ongoing or it just kind of happened."

"It's kind of day by day, I guess. We'll see tomorrow how it feels and if it doesn't get any better I'll probably get an MRI or something like that to see what it is."

Taylor Chorney tests out his ankle.

While the rest of the team sat in the meeting or left the rink to contemplate tomorrow's game on their own terms, injured players Taylor Chorney (ankle) and Robert Nilsson (concussion) briefly skated independently at Rexall Place. After leaving the ice in his track suit, Chorney said his ankle is "feeling a lot better."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


Friday morning started bright and early with a massive team signing. There were over 400 memorabilia pieces that were set out on tables to be signed by the entire team.  In addition, each player had their own individual table with items for one autograph.

Marc Pouliot and Ryan Stone practiced today with Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger at about 9:30 am in hopes that they will return this weekend, at least to practice with the entire team.

Team practice started at 11:00 am and was better attended than yesterday's scarce turnout. Ethan Moreau, Ales Hemsky, Jean-Francois Jacques, Shawn Horcoff, Liam Reddox, Sam Gagner and Lubomir Visnovsky,  all who were absent yesterday, dressed for practice today. 

“Today was a really good practice for me in terms of game situation drills and I felt good out there,” said JF Jacques. “I wouldn’t say I’m one hundred percent but I’m going to have to have a good meeting with the trainers and the doctors and see where we’re at for tomorrow night.”


Ethan Moreau should be good to make his return to the lineup tomorrow night and here’s what he had to say about getting ready for Chicago.

“It’s one of those games you have to get ready for or else you’ll be embarrassed,” said Moreau. “You always try to prepare your best, but over a course of an 82 game schedule; this is one of those games where you have to be a hundred percent, you have to really focus on the task at hand, or we’ve seen what can happen. We’re going to be ready that’s for sure.”


Denis Grebeshkov, Fernando Pisani, Taylor Chorney, Robert Nilsson and Mike Comrie were not able to skate today. With 12 forwards and seven defencemen on the ice, it would appear that we’ll have enough bodies to host the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night although a handful of those players are still questionable. The new question is; who will they call up next and are we almost in an emergency situation allowing us to call up Mr. Jordan Eberle from the Regina Pats? Only the docs can tell. The lines that Quinn ran today that might not mean too much for tomorrow’s game were as follows.

Horcoff, Penner and Hemsky on the top, Jacques, Gagner and Stortini second line, O’Sullivan, Brule and Reddox together on third and Cogliano, Moreau and Potulny on the fourth.

The Oilers squad worked a fair bit on their power-play, penalty kill and three on three down-low drills. They practiced fighting for the puck behind the net and passing out in front, being ready for the quick pass, and getting the shot away quickly. As most hockey fans know, the Chicago Blackhawks are a very fast, young and talented hockey club. They are coming off a dominating 7-1 victory last night to the Calgary Flames who aren’t exactly a struggling team.

“They have four fast lines that just attack with great speed and they move the puck very well,” Gilbert commented on the speedy Blackhawks. “They have guys on the back end that can jump up into the play. Turnovers are going to be the key tomorrow and puck possession. They are a good puck possession team and we don’t want to be chasing them around all night.”

Author: Kristi Hennessy |


Hours after the Oilers stole a 6-4 win from the Avalanche, the depleted team returned to the scene of the crime for practice Thursday morning.

Over 10 players were missing from the skate due to illness and injury, so many that Head Coach Pat Quinn required help from the media to run through the list.

Here's a summary of what Quinn had to say:

Mike Comrie: "has got mono. He's not going to play or practice until he's through the full phase of it."

Ethan Moreau: "When he came this morning to the rink, our medical staff wanted him to take the day off, so he did that."

Shawn Horcoff: "He tried to practice but couldn't get through it, so he left."

Robert Nilsson: "He's out [with a concussion]."

Liam Reddox: "is gone. You saw him get hit by that one shot by a player, so he's gone for an x-ray on the ankle."

Lubomir Visnovsky: "needed a day. He's still suffering from being banged about four or five days ago."

Ales Hemsky: "He's still sore from upper body stuff that's been going on with him for a while."

Sam Gagner: "went to have his hip further looked at."

Denis Grebeshkov: "is still out for a period of time."

Fernando Pisani is also out due to issues with colitis, while defenceman Taylor Chorney continues to suffer from an ankle injury.


Injured forwards Marc Pouliot and Jean-Francois Jacques started early, hitting the ice an hour before the full team practiced. Jacques, who is suffering from a back injury, stayed on to participate in his first full practice since November 2nd.

After suffering a knee injury one month ago vs. Vancouver, Ryan Stone is also nearing his return to the line-up. "We expect to have him practicing with us by the weekend," Quinn said.


Tom Gilbert
Along with the team's medical staff, pressure is also being felt by defenceman Tom Gilbert. After missing plays that resulted in two Colorado goals, Gilbert was benched by Quinn and finished the game with only seven minutes of playing time.

"It's been a rough beginning [of the season] for me," Gilbert said after practice. "When you're sitting watching the game on the bench, it's a clear sign that you're doing something wrong. And obviously, I know what's going on. I know that my game has got to get better defensively, and I've got to keep working through it."

Quinn agrees with Gilbert's assessment, but won't place the blame solely on the blueliner's shoulders.

"We speak generally all the time about our positional play and missed assignments and I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure that he missed a couple plays there.

"But here we are nailing one guy: Tom. We've got six guys that have not been doing a strong job on the defensive zone coverage. That's one of the reasons why we've got so many goals against. We've got to get better at it.

"I'm not pointing at Tom," Quinn emphasized. "If you count six or seven defence, plus four or five centres, you've got 11 people you should be pointing fingers at. So let's not just pull one guy out of the pot."

Author: Jen Sharpe |
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