On the heels of a disappointing 2-1 loss to the division rival Calgary Flames one night ago, the Oilers returned to Rexall Place this morning for an off-ice workout to move on from Saturday’s result.
While the workout room saw the bulk of Sunday’s activity, two injured Oilers carved into the ice as part of their rehabilitation efforts. Jim Vandermeer and captain Shawn Horcoff
both participated in a 30-minute session with Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger; a series of intense skating and quickness exercises took presedence as the pair were pushed to their physical limit.
Once the morning’s activity concluded, Head Coach Tom Renney confirmed that Vandermeer has been cleared by team doctors and will be available to play at any time at the coaches’ discretion.
"We skated him this morning, as we did a couple days ago with the test. His times are good, he’s ready to go, so we’ll play him."
Horcoff, who has been sidelined with a knee injury, donned full equipment for the first time since suffering the ailment on December 7th and partook in the same drills as the ready-to-play Vandermeer. While Horcoff was showing improvement in his mobility, the team’s captain is still a distance from returning to the lineup. LINEUP NOTES - BELLE & O'MARRA TO OKC
With the roster experiencing constant unrest due to the nature of the injury situation, the Oilers have been forced to make a number of decisions regarding minor league call-ups. As Renney explained, more changes are on the way with the assignments of Shawn Belle and Ryan O’Marra to the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons.
"Right now, nobody," Renney said of the potential recall options. "We’ve got some nicks and whatnot that we’re going to have a look at tonight and tomorrow morning and then make a decision if whether or not we need anybody beyond that."
"Shawn (Belle) had a tough night, and I’ve got Jimmy (Vandermeer) coming off IR and looking like he’s ready to play.
Ryan (O’Marra) is going to be back with a little more information. I think he acquitted himself well, as is often times the case and these first couple of steps take a little while to get the kind of traction you’re looking for.
He did a good job in the middle for us. He could use his body a little more; use his size and strength a little bit more on both sides of the puck. He’s gone back with that information, and we’ll talk to [Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson] about that and make sure that he nails it there."
The lineup fluctuation didn’t end there.
Rookie forward Jordan Eberle
left last night’s Battle of Alberta after colliding with former-Oiler Ales Kotalik. Eberle exited Rexall Place wearing a walking cast on his left foot following the game, but there has been no update on his condition since then.
An MRI conducted later today will help to reveal more about his condition, explained Renney.
"I think we’re looking at a little bit of time here, but I don’t know. I’d hate to speculate. He’ll get the MRI today and we’ll have a little better idea." INCONSISTENT RESPONSE
|Head Coach Tom Renney |
Injuries and lineup notes aside, the team is currently mired in a six-game losing streak – a sequence that began following Renney’s public declaration of playoff expectations.
Although the team has fallen in a 0-4-2 record since his comments, the coach wasn’t about to abandon his belief.
"I thought we played really well after those comments, and that wasn’t the intention. Instead of identifying with the intangibles all the time: Let’s work hard work, let’s show character, let’s battle, let’s have good intensity, let’s keep a good attitude – those are all very important traits as the process of becoming a good team would suggest.
At the same time, as a coach, it’s my responsibility to make sure there are tangible things to grab onto, too; and the playoffs are those things." RELIABLE RYAN
One player who has certainly bought in to Renney’s comments has been gritty winger Ryan Jones
. The 26-year old forward has scored nine goals on the season and has proven himself as one of the team’s most versatile bodies.
Perhaps even more impressively, Jones’ nine goals have come with almost no additional powerplay time to help contribute to his offensive totals. Despite that, Jones scored the Oilers’ lone goal of Saturday’s Battle of Alberta, in addition to his 17:40 of ice-time and three blocked shots.
Renney was sure to compliment Jones’ recent efforts, and said that additional offensive responsibilities may arise with futher lineup adjustments.
"I certainly thought about him a lot," Renney said of Jones’ potential addition to the powerplay. "It’s something that we’ll look at again for him. He seems to have a touch, he goes to the net, he’s a greasy sort of player – and every powerplay needs that sort of presence, too."
Renney commented further on the powerplay, citing its recent ineffectiveness to over-complication.
"Sometimes we want to paint a masterpiece and that’s not required."
The Oilers will now reconvene at Rexall Place tomorrow morning for a full practice as the team prepares for the Detroit Red Wings. To be sure, it will be a busy day focused on a number of the topics covered this morning by the head coach.