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The Team Today: Comrie Comeback

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


For the first time since being diagnosed wth mononucleosis, Comrie skated on a line for an entire Oilers practice. He played the wing with Ryan Potulny down the middle and Gilbert Brule on the opposite side.

"I'm starting to feel good," said Comrie after practice. "I think it's ultimately up to the coaches who they think are healthy
and the medical staff have cleared a couple of us to skate as hard as we can. It's good to be back on the ice."

Comrie has been out for 30 games. The road to recovery has been a frustrating one for him.

"It's been longer than I expected. I don't think you can wake up one day, the lights come on and you feel like 100%," he said.

Comrie left it in the coaches' hands on when he might be reinserted into the lineup.

"Sometimes you've just got to go play. When you come back from injury you've got to practice hard and get ready. Once the coaches feel you're ready to play (you get in the lineup).

"I've wanted to play for a month now but I've only skated (with the team) for about a week. When you go through an illness like I have you're not always the best judge of character. i love playing hockey and want to be out there as much as I can but the coaches are the ones who feel the players out and put in the lineup who they think is best capable of winning the game."

Quinn noted that if Comrie and Brule feel they're ready, he's likely to insert them into the lineup tomorrow night.

"If they are (ready) we're probably going to put them in," he said. "the other day we talked to Brule in the morning. He said he didn't have enough practices in."

With the return of both Brule and Comrie expected, Quinn finally has more healthy forwards than he knows what to do with. He remarked that he will use that as an opportunity to send some messages.

"You always talk about having a little bit of a hammer in the sense of if someone's not playing well you can either put them on the bench of up in the stands as a sort of incentive or disincentive," he noted.  "We haven't had that luxury at all. Even two days ago, we had a third of our lineup that should have been our players out. This will give us a little bit of room here."

On this day, it was Patrick O'Sullivan who found himself not skating on a line. He occasionally skated on the Brule-Comrie-Potulny line.


Last night, Quinn spoke about the recent play of Dustin Penner whose production has tailed off in the past month.

I would have liked to see him pound the guy he was opposite of, but there wasn't any interest in that," he stated after the game.

"It's how he's been playing the last two weeks, there seems to be a lifelessness there right now."

Penner responded after practice today to the coach's comments.

"I've got to see how I can get back to the way I was playing before. I wasn't being overly physical before, I was just getting pucks to the net," Penner said. "You have to look in the mirror and see if you can do better."

When asked if the team's performance could be affecting his play, Penner remarked that could be the case.

"The way we've been losing lately, we work really hard for a few games and we're so close then we have a game like last night. A lot of it is the mentality."

After practice today, Quinn agreed that fatigue could be part of the reason for his drop-off.

"At this point, Dustin does look like he's a little tired," he said. "We've played him a lot. A lot more than he's ever played before for anybody. Maybe we've drained the tank a little bit."


On Tuesday, the Oilers got a glimpse of where they want to be whe they played the Blackhawks. Near the bottom of the league three seasons ago, they now sit second in the NHL and are one of the top Cup contenders.

"That just didn't happen overnight. You watch them three years ago, they stunk. They were not a very good time," said Quinn. "They've made a lot of progress as a group. That takes lots of practice. It takes listening to what the instructions are, it takes execution. They've learned that. They've grown together."

"I was not unhappy with them being on the outside. You can have the puck if you want. When they come inside, you need to take somebody and we didn't," the coach continued.

Shawn Horcoff concurred with the coaches thoughts on where things broke down against the Blackhawks.

"You just try to keep them to the outside. That's what you do. Those guys want you to run at them on the outside so they can spin off and that creates openings."

Horcoff also acknowledged the difficulty in playing a top team like Chicago.

"They're a pretty good team. They've got three pretty outstanding lines up front."

Author: Marc Ciampa |


15 Oilers skaters, including Gilbert Brule and Sam Gagner, joined goalies Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk on the ice for morning skate Tuesday. After injuring his knee Friday vs. Dallas, Gagner sat out Sunday's team Skills Competition and Monday's practice but will be good to go tonight.

Brule, on the other hand, hasn't fully recovered from his fourth bout of the flu and likely won't dress. 

"(He's) close to coming back," Associate Coach Tom Renney said. "I think we'll probably look at him for Thursday (vs. St. Louis)."

Renney added the
Mike Comrie is also close to returning.

"We'll talk about things with Kenny Lowe, our trainer, and Pat (Quinn) and we'll see what we'll do in terms of integrating him into our line-up now."


The Oilers are not only celebrating the impending return of those two offensive forwards, they are also saluting defenceman
Jason Strudwick, who plays his 600th NHL contest tonight.

"He's had to bite, claw, and chew to stay as a regular in the National Hockey League, and when I saw him three years ago in Switzerland, a lot of people never would have figured he'd be back here, but he's back here because of his diligence, his preparation," Head Coach Pat Quinn said of Strudwick during his daily press conference.

"What he has is a positive way to affect his teammates, particularly the individual playing with him. He has been able to take some Nervous Nellys and calm them down to allow them to be a better player because of his presence."

When asked about the accomplishment, Strudwick was typically humble but nonetheless proud of his career.

"When there's injuries or different things, I get to play a little more often and unfortunately we've had quite a rash of injuries our last couple of years on the back end," he said. "When you start your career, you think that you want to get to 100, 200, then 400 seems like a number. Obviously, most guys see the benchmark of 1,000 as a great career but for me and my role I'm pretty proud of it."


While Strudwick looks forward to his 600th game tonight, fellow defenceman
Taylor Chorney is anticipating game number 16. Chorney was recalled by the Oilers Monday afternoon and, along with Strudwick, will fill the blueline spots vacated by injured Ladislav Smid and Steve Staios.

Chorney has been back and forth between the Oilers and the club's AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, for the past week, and he said it's a challenge to adapt to the different styles of play.

"It's probably a little bit faster around here, but I think there's a little more running around down there and maybe a little bit less structure, so there's adjustments both ways," the 22-year-old said after the skate. "But lots of guys have had to do that in the past and I'm nothing different so there's no excuses."


An early goal by Chicago captain Jonathan Toews set the tone for the first half of Tuesday's game, with the Blackhawks owning a four-goal, 15-shot lead heading into the final minute of the middle frame. At that point, Edmonton's Fernando Pisani kickstarted a comeback attempt to which Ryan Potulny contributed early in the third.

Unfortunately, the early deficit and strong goaltending from Cristobal Huet late in the game proved too much for the Oil and the club suffered a 4-2 loss.
  Author: Jen Sharpe |


After enjoying a full day off Saturday and lighthearted team Skills Competition Sunday, the Oilers got back to work Monday morning with a 90-minute practice at Rexall Place.

With Mike Comrie's practice presence no longer newsworthy, Gilbert Brule assumed the role as the newest player to return from illness by skating with the team. Both players have yet to dress for a game, but Head Coach Pat Quinn said that Brule may be good to go Tuesday night vs. Chicago.

"We're going to give him another little look in the morning," Quinn said. "We did a little conditioning skate with him to see where he was after the time off and he seemed to have not lost a great deal so there's a chance he'll come in tomorrow."

Brule said he's feeling better and felt good out on the ice.

"I've been working really hard in the gym with Simon (Bennett, Oilers Strength and Conditioning Coach), and I've just been feeling really good. . . . I'll skate again tomorrow and see if I'm ready to go."

"I had some stomach problems, and I just also wasn’t feeling too well,” he added. "I think I needed the time off just to get my head straight, just get back to being positive and being confident in myself which I think I got away from."

Brule has missed nine games due to the flu this season, including three in October and club's past six contests. The games lost don't tell the full story, however: Brule's fallen ill on four seperate occasions, prompting questions about whether it's just the flu or a bigger health problem.

"That's what our medical staff keeps saying to us, that's he's responded to some of these bugs going around poorly this year," Quinn explained. "But he seems strong now, and he seems positive. He got quite down when he was missing those games. He didn't feel healthy, and yet we couldn't nail it like we did with Comrie."

Comrie was diagnosed with mononeucleosis in mid-November and has missed 30 games. The Edmonton native has been practicing with the team for nearly a week, but when asked if he'll play Tuesday, Quinn said no.

"I don't think so. We'll continue to practice and train him."


The good news about Brule was clouded by Edmonton's spot in the standings Monday. With a 5-1 win over the Bruins Sunday night, the Carolina Hurricanes moved ahead of the Oilers in the NHL standings, leaving the Oilers at the bottom of the heap.

When asked about the club's current situation, Dustin Penner said that his focus is on a playoff spot and the standings below that aren't relevant.

"I don't have a board by my bed that says 30th, 29th, 28th. It's 'out of the playoffs.' It doesn't matter where you finish after that."

Defenceman Denis Grebeshkov added that the team's recent play is frustrating but that there's no use getting caught up in the negatives.

"We can't win a single game for a while, but at the same time, you don't have to bury yourself," Grebeshkov said. "You still have to stay positive and look forward to the next game and get ready for tomorrow."


Later Monday afternoon, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini announced that the club has recalled defenceman Taylor Chorney from the AHL's Springfield Falcons. Chorney, 22, played vs. Dallas Friday night but was then reassigned to the Falcons, where he appeared in two games over the weekend.
Author: Jen Sharpe |
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