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The Team Today: Dealing with the Devils

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers skated on Saturday morning in preparation for Sunday's 6:00 p.m. game with the New Jersey Devils. The team will not skate on Sunday morning so this was their last chance to get ready.

"You get to watch them on TV, you don't get to play against them very often," said Tom Gilbert. "It's kind of hard to get a read on the players they have."

Gilbert did note that a team coached by Jacques Lemaire - as the Devils are - will not take a lot of chances.

"They're pretty passive, they wait for turnovers and the're a great defensive team. We have to focus on the way we play and limit our amount of turnovers."

One big offensive weapon the Devils have is Ilya Kovalchuk.

"You have to take away his time and space, have a good stick," remarked Ryan Whitney. "Once you let him get wheeling you're in trouble. You really want to pressure him, be tough on him."


Ladislav Smid spoke to the media for the first time since the announcement that neck surgery was going to end the blueliner's season.

"It reminds me of last season, missed last 15 games as well," said Smid. "I'm probably going to be out for three or four months. It's going to be hard to get back in shape but hopefully I'll be ready for next season."

Smid's issue is a bulging disc and the surgery required involves the removal of the disc and shaving it to make it smaller before reinserting.

"I'm a little bit nervous but I talked to the doctors and it's a pretty common surgery so I should recover."

Smid's injury just kept getting worse to the point where he requested an MRI coming out of the break. The MRI showed the bulge had gotten much bigger.

"My neck was always an issue but it wasn't as big of an issue for me. These past few months were tough. I tried to play through it but it got tougher."


Ryan Jones also addressed the media after a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota's Derek Boogaard. The Wild enforcer was suspended two games for his actions.

"I didn't quite see it coming. It looks bad but nobody's going to mean to do those kinds of things," said Jones. "I know Boogie from the summer and talked to him this morning, it's just one of those things."

The Wild skated at Rexall Place this morning before departing for home. Jones, who trains in the off-season with Boogaard, walked by the 6'7" forward on his way to the Oilers room.

"He was walking by and I was on my way to get an MRI. He looked at me and I just shrugged. It happens, you don't want to be on either side of it but it still happens."

After the hit, Jones returned to the game and played out the remainder of the first period before getting pulled in the intermission.

"I really didn't want to come off. All the tests went well then Kenny (Lowe) saw it on the replay and said he wanted to check it again. It was a precautionary thing, he didn't want it to get any worse."

The game was a good early Rexall Place debut for Jones. He almost scored on one of his first few shifts with the puck just barely staying out and a video review confirming that fact.

"I thought our line was generating a lot of chances down low," he said. "Gags (Gagner) was behind the net, just threw it out and it went off my skate. It was sitting on the line for awhile."

As for a prognosis, it's still wait and see.

"We're still waiting for somebody to read it. I don't want to speculate. We'll let the doctors reveal that."


With all the injuries and movement, Edmonton's new top defence pairing now consists of Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney.

"He's a really good player. He's solid and he's smart. He can move the puck. He jumps up into the play, as do I occassionally. So one of us has to move back," said Whitney of Gilbert.

Gilbert also enjoyed playing with his new defence partner.

"Last night was pretty good. i think we complement each other really well. He's a great puck mover, solid defensively and we read off each other pretty well," Gilbert remarked.

It was an interesting situation for Whitney as he was in town right before the Olympic Break with the Anaheim Ducks and participated in an on-ice Olympic send-off along with Oilers players and his Ducks teammates. Coming back to Rexall Place, Whitney was welcomed back along with the Olympic contingent - but this time as a member of the home team.

"It's pretty nice to be here. It's a great fan base and it's good to really be welcomed. It's much appreciated. It's a great rink and a great locker room. There's a bright future here, it's exciting."

Author: Marc Ciampa |


The full Oilers squad took to the ice for morning skate Friday, including trade deadline acquirees Ryan Jones, Aaron Johnson, and Ryan Whitney.

For defenceman Whitney, it was his first appearance in the Oilers jersey and said it's an "exciting time" to be joining the Oil.

"Everyone wants to play in a hockey town -- it makes things pretty awesome. And I think guys enjoy playing where the fans really care, and obviously you want to be on a good team and win and that makes it even better," he said.

"That'll happen here I'm sure. Right now it's about finishing strong, meeting the guys, and becoming accustomed to being around here."

Jones, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday morning, views his time in Edmonton as an opportunity to cement an NHL role.

"It's a second chance for me to come to an organization that obviously wanted me to be here and show what I can do at this level," Jones said after the skate. "There's a lot of history obviously in the organization, there's a great group of guys in this room, and a good core, so we'll see what we can do here in the next 20."

Associate Coach Tom Renney expects to see a high compete level from Jones, Whitney, Johnson and the rest of the Oilers as the season winds down.

"Everybody that's here now is here to show us that they can play, that they want to, and that there's still potential in them as players, regardless of their status," he stated.

From blueliners Johnson and Whitney, Renney added that he wants to see "instinctive play" tonight vs. Minnesota.

"You can look at them within the body of an X and O, and all those types of things, and judge their game by how they participate within our team concept, but I think what you look at more than anything else is just their instincts -- that they have the wherewithal, the hockey sense, the ability to just kind of make things happen simultaneously on both sides of the puck."


Head Coach Pat Quinn covered a lot of topics in his season-record 19-minute pre-game press conference (
listen here), including his thoughts on goaltending assignments.

"We're hoping one of them (
Jeff Deslauriers or Devan Dubnyk) steps forward and says 'I'm going to be your guy," Quinn said. "That hasn't happened  yet, so I think tonight, or at least for the next little bit, the guy that wins will go in. If there's no win, we'll give it to the other guy."

Quinn also gave an update on the club's many injuries:

Ethan Moreau: "The medical staff today said no practice, no game, so we're going to try to get to the bottom of it."

Ladislav Smid: "Smid requires neck surgery and will be out for the season. So they're going to go in and do that vertebrae, at least the disk part, and do some removal."

Sheldon Souray: "Souray is still in (the hospital) with an infection. He is out indefinitely. It's serious enough to keep him in the hospital."

Nikolai Khabibulin: "Khaby is out indefinitely, continues rehab, and they are happy with the progress."

Jean-Francois Jacques: "Jacques had successful (back) surgery yesterday . . . and he clearly is out for the season.

Ryan Stone: "Stone continues his rehab, has started skating, but he continues to have a problem with that knee and I don't know what they're going to do with it eventually down the way."


It wasn't the final shot count but the quality of saves that stole the spotlight Friday night at Rexall Place. With 28 stops through 65 minutes plus four in the shootout, Jeff Deslauriers outplayed the Wild and his goaltending opponent Niklas Backstrom to secure an exciting 2-1 win for the Oilers.

Mike Comrie scored the game's first goal and the final shootout marker, while rookie defenceman Theo Peckham got third star for his aggressive game.
Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Bob Stauffer


Four Oilers took to the ice for a short skate Thursday morning at Rexall place, including goalies Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk, as well as trade deadline acquisitions Ryan Jones and Aaron Johnson.

Jones and Johnson were all smiles on the ice and also while addressing the Edmonton media for the first time outside the locker room.

"It's a great opportunity," forward Jones said. "I don't really know what to expect -- I just got in yesterday. But there's a lot of talent in that room. I looked around and there's a lot of young guys with great speed and skill -- Gagner, Cogliano, Horcoff. Those kind of guys can make plays, and with them on your team, you never know what you can do."

Defenceman Johnson echoed Jones' enthusiasm.

"I think this is a good opportunity for me. I have about 19, 20 games to try to prove myself and earn myself a job on this team and go out and take advantage of it."


Jones made his Oilers debut Wednesday night in Chicago, but both players are expected to dress in their first home game Friday night at Rexall Place.

The experience will be especially unique for Johnson, who comes to the Oilers from their bitter rivals, the Flames, in exchange for Steve Staios.

"I've played a couple games (at Rexall Place)," Johnson rememered. "It was pretty intense, obviously. It gets pretty chippy out there. I think I might have fought the last game I was in here, but I guess that's just part of the rivalry.

"I heard that's the first trade between the two Alberta teams so obviously I'm really excited to be here and I'm looking forward to getting on the ice."

Jones, who comes from the Predators, said he's expecting the arena to be loud.

"It's a Canadian city and every time I played here, it's exciting. You feed off the crowd and it will be nice to have them on my side for once.

"I always play well in this barn, so hopefully I can continue it."

Author: Jen Sharpe |
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