With the team enjoying some early season success at home, a new test begins Thursday night when the Oilers will take on the Minnesota Wild as part of their first road trip of the 2010-2011 season. In preparation for that, the Oilers practiced one last time at Rexall Place Wednesday morning before departing to the central US.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Defenceman Ryan Whitney is looking forward to the road trip and says these are always great opportunities to bond with teammates.
"It's nice to finally get away. We've been here for a quite a while now, and it's just good to go kind of go out to dinner with each toher and do those type of things where you really kind of get to know guys. People have families at home and you don't see them that often, except at the rink, so it's good."
Whitney expanded further on the team's recent struggles at the Xcel Energy Center, but says there needs to be a system in place to have success on the road.
"You got to play a little different. You got to play simple on the road. It seems like it takes a lot more to win there, and just making simple plays. There is a way to play a road game to be successful, so it's just to up to us to do that and realize that it's going to be a little tougher without our fans."
Rookie Jordan Eberle is equally as excited to start his first road trip of his young NHL career and is looking to make a deeper connection with his teammates in a setting he hasn't yet experienced.
"You learn things about guys you didn't know before, especially when you have a roommmate, so that really brings the team together."
Being a travel day, the pace wasn’t quite as intense as it has been over the past few days, but the players were still providing the utmost energy in their participation. Of sorts, it was a “back to basics” day as the team worked meticulously on familiar drills and areas that head coach Tom Renney feels needs improvement.
Although the practice didn’t officially begin until 10am, the entire team was on the ice well before the scheduled start-time to play around and enjoy some relaxed ice-time before the coaches began the session. Once the session began, it was all business during the drills but the players weren’t shy to hide their excitement of the atmosphere and overall mood.
|Oilers players prepare for an incoming shot from the point. |
While the Oilers showed tremendous precision and decisiveness during their 4-0 stomping of the Calgary Flames on opening night, the team struggled in certain areas two nights later against the visiting Florida Panthers. Passes weren’t crisp, the team was trying to get too creative when a simple shot would suffice, and the breakout was disjointed which led to a misaligned offensive attack.
Head coach Tom Renney agreed that the team still has plenty of work to do regarding systems, but insists that practice time is only part of the equation.
"We're still trying to tidy up parts of our game, where everybody is on the same page and we know what the execution is that's required. At the end of the day, we have to play; we have to play to make that determination. We can practice it all we want, but we have to have something on the line other than just getting it done that ten seconds of a drill."
As a result of the opposite ends in the two games played so far, the coaching staff instituted a greater emphasis on their system play today. Breakouts were the primary point of concern, as the team spent much of the session breaking out of the zone with various techniques and re-doing the drills to perfection.
THE TRAINING FILE
While head coach Tom Renney was cryptic during yesterday’s media availability regarding a potential reason for the team’s sluggish performance, he clarified that point today and says it was likely due to a training and communication error on the part of the coaching staff.
|Tom Renney addresses the media following Wednesday's skate. |
"I think we may have done some damage with how we trained in preparing for Florida, and there was a lactate build-up and we couldn't flush it out in time to play the way we really wanted to. I think we had heavy legs, because we might have done a little bit too much work in the fitness, skating, metabolic department."
While the coaching staff admitted an error in their methods, the players weren't about to use it as an excuse for their uninspired play. Jordan Eberle commented on the fact that the team simply wasn't prepared to match Florida's intensity.
"Anytime you're not getting chances and not doing what you usually do, it is frustrating. They worked hard - they outworked us. That was the key thing. We didn't come to work and they outworked us. Obviously Khabi played unreal, probably why we won the game, but obviously we have to be ready."
STRUGGLE IN ST. PAUL
The Oilers currently find themselves in a 13-game winless stretch at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnnesota. Considering the Wild are a primary divisional foe, the need for success is especially important. While the Oilers have had their share of struggles in Minnesota, this group is a new team with a new mentality; head coach Tom Renney feels that the new youthful enthusiasm could actually pay dividends for thepsychological effect.
"I like the energy of our guys; old, young, experienced, inexperienced. I just like the energy of our group anyway, not withstanding our last game where we seemed to struggle a little bit. I like our energy, and I think we're maybe just naive enough, too, where it doesn't really matter - whatever happened in the past is that. And maybe we can create an advanage for ourselves by really not caring. Just go play."
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In the latest edition of our fan question series, Justin of Edmonton submitted this great question for Magnus Paajarvi:
JUSTIN: "Magnus, First of all, "welcome"! Second, what are some the major differences between playing in the NHL and Elite? And what adjustments have you had to make to your game?"
MAGNUS: "The biggest difference is definitely the rink. Especially behind the net and in the corners, because there's no ice at all over there. You really have to make a play fast. And and that's what I ntoiced too: The time. You don't have much time. It doesn't where you are. Every team wants to pressure and be aggressive in this league, I noticed.
I would say those are the two biggest differences; the bigger rink and the aggressiveness, which I've had to get used to."
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola