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THE TEAM TODAY: Combo Breaker

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers


After participating in an off-ice workout Sunday morning, the Oilers returned to the frozen canvas at Rexall Place to engage in a one-hour practice to help shake the rust from a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames over the weekend.

With an all-business attitude early in the session, Head Coach Tom Renney pushed the pace of the individual drills and demanded further precision from his group as the early portions of the practice were, at times, sloppily completed.

Once the dust settled following Renney’s vocal and energetic interlude, practice continued with the players refining the message and completing the drills with precision and a heady effort.

Amidst the sound of skates carving the Rexall Place ice, new line combinations were debuted as the team prepared for the absence of rookie forward Jordan Eberle. The following concoctions were unveiled:

Paajarvi - Gagner - Hemsky
Penner - Cogliano - Hall
Jacques - Brule - Jones
MacIntyre - Fraser - Stortini

Peckham - Gilbert
Smid - Petry
Vandermeer - Foster


Magnus Paajarvi, who was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s dust-up with the Flames, was promoted from the press box to the first line – an opportunity that he believes needs to be captured with his new linemates.

"They're great hockey players," Paajarvi said of Hemsky and Gagner. "But I've been playing great hockey this year, too. I'm just going to try and go out there and do what I do best, and I know they have really good assets too, so I think we can be a really good line.

"Hopefully we can create something. I'm just going to go out there and focus – the first thing on myself."

While the highly talented Swede was looking forward to this new opportunity, the reflection of Saturday’s seat in the press box was still an all too real memory.

Magnus Paajarvi
"It was not fun to be on the outside," said Paajarvi. "We'll see in the long run, but I think it was helpful for me for sure. It was a new experience and I can just learn from that. You get a whole other perspective [from the press box]. You see 10 guys instead of two guys, maybe, and you can see where the lanes are and things like that."

When it came to the reasoning behind his exclusion from the lineup, Paajarvi cited some potential improvements that he needs to focus on.

"Try to get more greasy, more aggressive. Try to use my body a little bit more, things like that."

Paajarvi’s recognition of the areas in need of improvement was a positive sign for the coach.  

"Greasy is in the vocabulary now. That's good," Renney remarked. 

"He knows that. He's a great kid. He's such a great competitor and he just knows that he's got to battle, and make sure that he gets to places first with his speed and stays over top of the job and gets to the dirty areas -- the nasty areas.

He's a talented player; he's a skilled guy. As much as we want him to do those things, and there are ways where he can contribute along those lines, we also want him to use his wonderful talent to blow it open and try things."

Another player who will be re-inserted for tomorrow night’s matchup with the Detroit Red Wings is rookie defenceman Jeff Petry. The smooth-skating blueliner was looking forward to getting back in the rotation following his one-game relegation to the press box. 

As Petry explained, the opportunity presented "a good learning experience" as he continues to establish his name with the coaching staff.

"If you get back to the puck as quickly as possible, it gives you that extra time. Those guys that trap you down low, they're strong enough to hold you off. Just don't give them time to set-up. Get the puck and get it going up ice," Petry said of the learning specifics.

"It is a confidence-builder, but I can't be too comfortable. I have to keep taking it game-by-game, day-by-day and keep working hard to stay up here."


After suffering an ankle injury Saturday night against the Flames, the news of Jordan Eberle’s condition was positive today after many feared a longer-term lineup disruption. Eberle emerged from the locker room without a cast and walking, seemingly, under little duress.

Jordan Eberle
"I don't think it's as serious as it looked," Eberle said to relax the media contingent. "I haven't gotten an MRI yet, so I've got to wait for that until tomorrow."

"But the way that I felt the first day and the way that I feel now -- and the fact that I'm walking fine and feeling fine -- it's definitely a relief."

Eberle, who said that he hadn’t been through any kind of injury in his career, recounted the events that led to his ailment.

"I fell in an awkward position and I kind of felt it pop a little bit, but as I got back to the bench it felt better and better. I tried to put a little weight on it, and it was obviously sore. I came in, got an x-ray and there was nothing broken or anything like that, and that was good."

With the rookie itching to get back into the lineup as soon as possible, he’s working hard to rehab the injury and help to accelerate the healing process.

"Obviously I’ve been rehabbing, icing it and taking care of it over the past few days; go to the pool today and do some work on it there and, like I said, doing the right things to make sure I get back into the lineup as soon as I can."

"I'm hoping to get on the ice soon," Eberle concluded.

Although injuries have played a large role in the recent headlines, Renney wasn’t about to insert any excuses for the team’s recent play or for the atmosphere around the locker room.

"It’s always a challenge and it's always worth it. I don't need to get philosophical, but there are a lot of people in tougher situations than our guys having to play through this. It's game-on for us. Let's just go play and let's just try to put our best foot forward every night and improve by the circumstance."

The Oilers will aim to do that tomorrow night when the Detroit Red Wings visit Rexall Place. Limited singles and standing tickets are still available, so act now before they sell out!

  Purchase tickets online


Due to the uncertainly with Eberle's injury and the fact that the team currently does not have any extra forwards available, the Oilers have recalled Linus Omark and Liam Reddox from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.


In the latest edition of our fan question series, Gillan of Edson submitted a question for Theo Peckham.

GILLAN: "Do you listen to music before games to get pumped up?"

Theo Peckham
THEO: "Lately I've been listening more to band called Middle Class Rut. It's a little bit more alternative. I like them, I like Soulja Boy's 'Mean Mug' -- that gets me fired up, too. I have an iPod that I use, I like to listen to my music to get pumped up before games and before warm-up. I've always done that since I was a kid."

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: Ryan Dittrick |, with files from Tom Gazzola



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.


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."


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."


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.


In the latest edition of our fan question series, Vanessa of Sherwood Park submitted a question for Ladislav Smid.

VANESSA: "Do you feel more pressure to be a role model and step up as one of the Oilers leading defencemen?"

Ladislav Smid
LADISLAV: "There's always pressure, so I don't really feel more pressure. You obviously want to win every game, but I do think it's a good opportunity for other guys to step up and show what they've got. For me, I just try to keep my game simple, do what I normally do as a leader, and not try to over-think what I'm doing on the ice. That's really the way I always try to play."

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: Ryan Dittrick |, with files from Tom Gazzola



Tonight the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames engage in the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta as 2011 ignites in style. The Oilers took to the ice this morning at Rexall Place for one final tune-up before the late evening battle commences.

Although the team’s current injury situation has been a disappointing addition to five-game losing streak, a battered blueliner was present for this morning’s session despite missing yesterday’s practice. Tom Gilbert emerged from the locker room and participated, as did Jim Vandermeer and recent call-up Shawn Belle.


Even with the attendance of these three defencemen, Head Coach Tom Renney was non-committal about his decisions regarding his team’s lineup on the backend.

"I’ve still got some roster decisions to make there," said Renney. "Quite honestly, it depends. It depends on who’s in. I’m still making a couple of decisions there."

Defenceman Shawn Belle, who was recalled from the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons Friday afternoon, will be a game-time decision with the nightly assignments still in the minds of the coaching staff.

"When you’re up here, you want to make an impression and get the coaches’ confidence so you can play more," Belle said of the opportunity.

Belle will likely take part in the warm-up before the final lineup decision is made.

While there was some uncertainty with the rearguards, there was confirmation of change in another area. Rookie forward Magnus Paajarvi will be watching tonight’s game from the press box, as he will become a healthy scratch for the first time in his young NHL career.

Paajarvi, while disappointed, was professional in his comments as he sees the situation as a challenge moving forward.

"I’m just going to work harder and do the things I need to do to get back into the lineup," said a soft-spoken Paajarvi. "I definitely think you can learn from looking upstairs; just to see the game from a whole different perspective for sure. If you get that opportunity, you can learn a lot."

"You deserve your ice-time and I guess I don’t deserve it today. I’m going to work harder we’ll go from there."

Paajarvi also commented on the support  and open lines of communication provided by his coach.

"Tom is reasonable. I think he makes good coaching decisions. I trust him and hopefully he trusts me."

Renney believes that the decision to scratch Paajarvi will have a positive effect, both on the team and for the skilled Swede moving forward.

"For a rookie it is [a benefit], to see this game from up above," Renney said of Paajarvi’s lineup exclusion. "Especially with some of the things – and I’m not going to get into the details – some of the little things that we think he needs to do to apply himself with more success at this level. So I think it gives him a chance to look at that and see how it functions with other people and invite that from him moving forward."

"He’s had to try and overcome a couple of things from the get-go, really, and now we’re going to deal with it."


Following a tussle with the flu bug, forward Gilbert Brule returned to the lineup Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche after missing four games. Brule performed well in his return and is looking forward to carrying his solid performance into tonight’s matchup with the Flames.

"I thought I was moving my legs well. I think that’s what I need to do. It’s key for me to keep my feet moving all the time, protecting the puck and playing the body, playing mean."

Brule, who scored the Oilers’ first goal of the season back when the Flames made their previous visit to Rexall place on October 7th, is looking forward to another battle.

"They’ve (Calgary) been playing better as of late, so we’re expecting a very hard game from them," Brule explained. "They have four solid lines who play a heavy checking game, so we’re going to have to get on the body tonight and be prepared for a physical game"

"They played a tough game last night and they got in late here, so we’re definitely going to have to get on right away. The first 10 minutes is going to be key for us. If we’re getting pucks deep and making them work and getting their d-men turning, it’s going to be a hard night for them."

Jordan Eberle agreed, but cautioned that the group needs to remain focused and not get caught up in the atmosphere.

"We’ve got to stick to our game and get pucks in and try to wear down their team," Eberle said. "But for us, this is more of a game where we have to worry about ourselves. Obviously it’s a pretty big rivalry between the two teams, and there’s going to be a lot of energy, but we have to try and stick to our own game try and full a full 60 minutes."


With the Oilers currently mired in a five-game losing skid, Head Coach Tom Renney says that his group needs to to be aggressor on this night, as the Flames’ upbeat confidence will have to be shelved by the home side.

"I think we’ve got to come out strong here," said Renney. "They played last night. Obviously they played well and they feel good about themselves. If we allow them to come out and sort of control the game and feel good again, then we might have a tiger by the tail, so we’ve got to have a really good start."

"I think we’re going to have to go through four lines of forwards in order to have success, so we have to make sure that we’re efficient, that we push the issue and press the envelope from that point of view, naturally, and that we really out-change this team and continue to push the pace off the bench."


A slow start, lack of shots, and injury to star rookie Jordan Eberle did little to help the Oilers open the New Year on a positive note, resulting in a 2-1 loss to the Flames in Saturday night's game, presented by TELUS. Ryan Jones scored Edmonton's lone goal midway through the game, while Nikolai Khabibulin earned second-star honours for his 28-save performance.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |, with files from Tom Gazzola



Author: Ryan Dittrick |

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