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THE TEAM TODAY: Departures

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


The Edmonton Oilers head out on the road today after arguably their most successful homestand of the season.

The team is on a three-game winning streak - matching their longest of the season - after convincing victories against Dallas, Montreal and Atlanta.

Prior to departure, the team practiced this morning at Rexall Place.

The forward lines were the same as the previous three games, though Gilbert Brule was rotating in as centre on a line with Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky.

Brule is getting closer to being taken off injured reserve.

"He can probably play, but he's not off of IR yet," noted Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

Part of the delay in terms of re-inserting Brule into the lineup has been the team's outstanding play of late.

"It's tough to deviate from (what's been a winning linup), but we'll try to keep an open mind here."

In the meantime, the team is preparing for what will be a good test - a hot Minnesota team tomorrow followed by an Avalanche team on Wednesday that's had their season fall off the rails.

"I think we feel pretty good about our game right now and I think if we play the same team game we have a chance to do something," Ales Hemsky said.


One player who was notably absent from practice is defenceman Taylor Chorney.

He has been moved off the team's 23-man roster in order to make room for Sheldon Souray.

Souray cleared re-entry waivers at 10:00 a.m. today and was added to the team's roster. The Oilers have put him back on waivers and he must now remain on the 23-man roster for 24 hours until he clears again. At that time, he can then be re-assigned to Hershey.

Renney said he was surprised nobody was interested in taking Souray at half price.

"As a hockey player, it's a bit shocking to be honest with you. I think Sheldon's a good player and I think he can help a lot of teams who need something like that down the stretch. It's a little bit unusual, to me, but I'm not a General Manager," said Renney. "He's got way too much to offer a team that needs that kind of help right now."

In the meantime, the odd man out is Taylor Chorney who must now fly to Oklahoma City.  Souray, in the meantime, has to actually fly to Edmonton.

"He's been re-assigned, basically," Renney said.

As for a potential recall of Chorney, Renney pointed out that wasn't the inevitable next step.

"Depends on what happens," he said. "All I know is he's not with us."

Ladislav Smid wore a non-contact jersey. He skated but it was a maintenance day for him.


On the strength of an outstanding week, Ales Hemsky earned honours as the NHL's Third Star of the past seven days.

Hemsky led all scorers in the entire NHL last week with seven points (four goals, three assists) as the Oilers (19-32-8) posted three consecutive victories. He had multi-point games in each of the three matches starting with a goal and assist in a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars Feb. 15. Two days later, he had a pair of goals as the Oilers defeated Montreal 4-1. On Saturday, he recorded a goal and two assists - all in the third period - in a 5-3 comeback win over the Atlanta Thrashers.

"It's nice to be recognized by that. The most important thing is we start playing better as a team," said Hemsky.

The Czech winger also attributed his success to being reunited with Horcoff and Penner. The trio has had plenty of success together in the past.

"For me, I just feel strong with Pens and Horc. We've played together a long time and just know what to expect from each other," Hemsky continued. "It's been pretty fun."


In the latest edition of our fan question series, Amanda L. of Edmonton submitted a question for Ryan Jones.

AMANDA: "So how many cookies did you get at the Autograph session?"

RYAN: "A lot! I didn't even count them but I brought two big ziploc bags full here so I've stil got a few at home. But it was pretty sweet, a lot of Cookies by George I think the store is called and a couple homemade ones. I haven't tasted them to see which ones are best."

On his Twitter account (@jonesry28), Jones made a mention to fans attending Sunday's autograph session that he would be trading hugs for cookies.

"Honestly, I was just goofing around. My brother didn't think that I'd have any followers on Twitter so I told him that I put on there that if they brought cookies they would get hugs. I tweeted it and next thing you know I got a ton of cookies. So, I won."

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: Marc Ciampa |, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola



With Saturday's 1:30pm matinee vs. Atlanta looming, the Oilers held one last practice at Rexall Place late Friday morning. All Oilers participated in the 45-minute skate, including Gilbert Brule, who is nearly ready to leave the injured reserve and return to the line-up.

Although the speedy forward's return is imminent, head coach Tom Renney confirmed it won't happen tomorrow afternoon.

"I think he's ready to go, but I do have the luxury of the situation being what it is, and I want to make sure that the guys that are getting it done right now get an opportunity to keep that going," he said.

"I can't keep him out -- I can't keep any of these guys out too long. It has diminishing returns when they do come in. And he's worked awfully hard to get himself ready and I respect that," Renney added.

When asked if Brule might be assigned to Oklahoma City on a conditioning stint, the coach said, "I don't know if that would be necessary."


By keeping the line-up consistent, the Oilers hope to produce a third consecutive win Saturday afternoon. Players, coaches, and management have made an effort to stay positive throughout this challenging season, and the recent wins have done more than add four points to the team's tally.

"I think it helps sort of legitimize the need to stay intense, the need to fight through adversity, the need to continue to follow a game plan, and that whatever our circumstances are, we're in complete control of how we want to approach each and every game," Renney said.

"You can choose to be a victim or you can choose to be a survivor, and I think we're learning there's really only one way to go about business in the NHL and that's to try to win all the time."

Theo Peckham said the key to a third straight win is keeping it simple.

"The things we've done in the past two games to win, I think we have to carry those over not just think that we're God's gift to hockey all of a sudden, try to come up with those fancy plays and stuff like that. I don't think that's going to really help us in being successful. I think it's just going back to the basics and doing kind of what got us here," he said.

Other than the opponent, one big difference between the past two contests and Saturday's match-up is game time. The Oilers are used to playing in the evening, but the puck drops for Saturday's game at 1:30pm.

One week ago the Oilers dropped a 5-3 matinee decision to the Senators; Renney hopes his team comes more prepared this time around.

"Not having been here a week or so ago, it sounds like we kind of had one foot on the curb and the other off, so we just have to make sure that we're really ready," he said. "If we can have a real good start then I think we'll be fine. I think we've locked into something again here with how we have to play, regardless of the time."


Saturday's matinee vs. the Thrashers started slowly but finished fantastically for the Oilers. With his club down 3-1 early in the third period, rookie Taylor Hall ignited and fired home three consecutive goals to give himself a natural hat trick and the Oilers the lead. A late empty-netter for Ales Hemsky sealed the 5-3 victory, Edmonton's third in a row.

Author: Jen Sharpe |



With their six-game homestand nearing an end, the Oilers are looking to springboard off a 4-1 win over Dallas into another successful outing tonight.

Although head coach Tom Renney did not run lines at the morning skate, he is expected to preserve Tuesday's combinations:

Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Hall - Cogliano - Eberle
Omark - Gagner - Paajarvi
Jacques - Reddox - Jones

Nikolai Khabibulin will get his second straight start in net.


Players, coaches, management, and fans are hoping line-up consistency translates into a consecutive win, something the team has accomplished only four times this season.

"The biggest challenge for us now is trying to throw some consistency together and tonight's going to be the first step in that direction," captain Shawn Horcoff said. "We need to be a team that's better at home, harder to play against at home. I think we're really starting to figure out the type of game we need to play to be successful."

Success won't come easily tonight. The Canadiens are tied for first in the Northeast Division and will be looking for revenge after the Oilers robbed them of two points December 1 at Bell Centre.

"This team always starts well -- it doesn't matter where they are, at home or on the road -- so we have to make sure that we take our start to them and don't allow them to feel real good about what it is they're up to," Renney explained. "With that being said, we have to make sure that we manage our shifts well, push the pace, try to play as much hockey as we can in their own end so that, again, they can't feel good about their game."

Off the ice, the Oilers are expecting to see a strong Habs presence in the crowd at Rexall Place.

"It's unbelievable, Montreal fans. They seem to somehow make it 50/50 anywhere they go in Canada on the road," Horcoff said. "But it's exciting games to play and I love playing Canadian teams at home, especially the eastern teams that we don't get to see too often. It's always a great game so we're looking forward to tonight."


Strong performances at both ends of the ice, including 36 saves from Nikolai Khabibulin and two goals from Ales Hemsky, helped the Oilers defeat the Canadiens 4-1 Thursday night.

Author: Jen Sharpe |

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