After suffering a disappointing 3-2 loss in Vancouver and making the short flight back to Edmonton Sunday night, the Oilers returned to the ice for their first post-Christmas practice late Monday morning.
Shawn Horcoff donned a track suit and strapped on his skates before the rest of his teammates, testing out his injured knee. The Oilers captain has not played a game since December 7 vs. Anaheim.
Gilbert Brule also took to the ice before practice. The 23-year-old forward has missed the past three games due to the flu but is on his way to recovery.
Horcoff and Brule aren't the only players looking forward to rejoining the line-up: After 25 days on the injured reserve, Ales Hemsky fully participated in practice, skating with Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano, and said he expects to play tomorrow vs. Buffalo.
"The doctor said I should be okay, I don't have to take any MRI," he explained. "The last one week, I skated and I pushed it hard so I should be ready for tomorrow."
Hemsky has a simple goal upon his return: "Just focus on my game and help the team win some games."
With Hemky's imminent return, the Oilers will have some decisions to make. Rookies Linus Omark and Ryan O'Marra have performed well since their call-up December 8th, but returning vets may cut short their time with the club.
Head coach Tom Renney is going to weigh his options.
"I'm looking at who's injured and can't play, first and foremost, and that's really where my mindset is, and if I've got to send somebody down, then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," he said. "I can't speculate given the nature where guys are in their treatment and their rehab, so I'm trying not to worry about that because it's a tough call."
The Oilers blue line will also likely see some changes in the coming games. Although Jim Vandermeer is expected back soon, Tom Gilbert was injured vs. the Canucks and is listed as "day-to-day" according to Renney.
"He's doing fine, he's doing way better today, but I'm one of those guys where if it costs a game to play the rest of the year, I'm going to do those things," the coach said.
For some insurance, the Oilers recalled Jeff Petry from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Monday afternoon. Edmonton's second-round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft has recorded 21 points in 32 games so far in his rookie season with the Barons.
Read the press release: Oilers recall Jeff Petry
SET FOR THE SABRES
The Oilers are hoping to overcome their injury issues and battle through to a win over Buffalo Tuesday night. Despite dropping their last three games, players and coaches are feeling good about the club's recent performances.
"We know we've been playing good hockey the last couple games, even though we lost, so we've just got to work on those small things," Magnus Paajarvi said. "We've got Hemmer coming back now i think so that's going ot help us a lot too."
"We've got to keep going at it and getting off to good starts like we have been," Colin Fraser added. "Seems like we have 10 minute lapses in games where they kind of not necessarily score but start swinging the momentum the other way, and I think we've got to limit that, limit our turnovers, and really just do much of what we have been doing but do it for a full 60 minutes."
Renney likes the team's mindset right now.
"We absolutely love the challenge of going out to get wins and that's how we're approaching this," he said. "Making sure that they stay positive, and good preparation, good feedback, practices that make sense, good dialogue back and forth ... At the end of the day, you sure want it to translate into results and sooner or later we need that."
Singles and standing tickets are available for Tuesday's game. Click here to purchase.
In the latest edition of our fan question series, Carla of Edmonton submitted a question for Ryan Jones.
CARLA: "What kind of music do you listen to before a game to pump you up?"
RYAN: "Pretty much whatever's playing in the room. We have the team iPod with a playlist that pretty repetitive. It's full of a little bit of Eminem, Bru might have got a Slipknot song on there. They take requests, but it seems like we've played it all year. It's been 34 games so I listen to that."
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: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola