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THE TEAM TODAY: Friday Files

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


With some notable exceptions, the Oilers took to the ice for practice at Rexall Place late Friday morning.

Among the absentees were Nikolai Khabibulin, Ladislav Smid, and Sam Gagner. Head coach Tom Renney said the trio were benefiting from a "maintenance" day.

Filling in for Khabibulin at one end of the ice was Oilers goaltending coach Fred Chabot.

Two players on the injured list continue to skate with the team: Jim Vandermeer and Gilbert Brule. Renney didn't have an update on either player's timeline for return but said Vandermeer "looked fine."

"He skated well again today," the coach said. "He needs to talk to TD (Forss, head althetic therapist) and us together and we'll determine how he's doing from there."

As for the other residents of Oilers sick bay, Jordan Eberle (ankle) took to the ice briefly before practice and managed to break a pane of glass.

His speedy shot aside, the star rookie is "not ready" to return, according to Renney. "There's just a little hill he's got to get over here yet. We're working on it."

Ales Hemsky, who suffered a concussion Tuesday night vs. Minnesota, is taking mandatory rest time. Renney doesn't know if Edmonton's top forward will -- or should -- participate in next weekend's All Star game, as was the plan earlier this week.

"I don't think he should go to the All Star game without having played, honestly, but that's a decision for all of us to collaborate on and come to grips with," the coach said.


The Hemsky and Eberle injuries have challenged the Oilers offence, but players and coaches agree the  team's overall on-ice effort is good. It's the end-of-game results that need improvement.

"You go back to the game in Dallas, we outshoot them two to one, 40 to 20 or whatever, and lose 3-2," Colin Fraser recalled. "And last night, I think for the majority of the game, we out-play them and we out-shoot them and give ourselves a chance to win the game, but still came up short one goal. It seems to be the story this season."

Patience is a virtue, but Fraser knows points matter too.

"I think everyone here in Edmonton understands that it does take time and it doesn't happen overnight. But with that being said, we want to win more hockey games. We're not accepting that as an excuse or anything like that. I think that we're almost 50 games into the season now, so everybody's got a taste of the NHL, whether they're young or not, and we've got to find a way to win those games by one instead of losing them by one."

At this time last year, the Oilers were midway through a 13-game losing streak. This year, Renney said it's a different campaign with a different team and different expectations.

"We have a great group of guys in there that care about results, they care about their input, they care about performing well. Not to suggest last year's team didn't, but this year's team is all I'm concentrating on and I'm not going to draw comparisons to anything I've been involved with in the past.

"I'm dealing with the moment, as I believe I should, and I'm dealing with this team one player at a time. And I think because of that I've got a good feel for the pulse of this team and these guys care about how they're doing."


That on-ice pride will carry into this weekend when the Oilers host two very different competitions.

Saturday at noon, the team's annual Skills Competition takes over Rexall Place. This always-entertaining event pits Oiler vs. Oiler in a variety of events, including fastest skater, hardest shot, accuracy shooting, and stickhandling.

Get tickets for Skills Competition

Then on Sunday, game day returns to Rexall Place as the Oilers host the Nashville Predators. Game time is 6:00pm and limited tickets are available

Get tickets for Sunday vs. Nashville


Andrew Cogliano

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Alissa of Grande Prairie submitted a question for Andrew Cogliano.

ALISSA: "Who was your favourite player growing up?"

ANDREW: "Joe Sakic, and I switched that to Jason Strudwick halfway through my second year."

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 |, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola



The Oilers welcomed a familiar face back into the fold for morning skate at Rexall Place. After injuring his knee December 7 vs. Anaheim and missing the following 18 games, Shawn Horcoff was an active participant in the drills and is expected to skate with Dustin Penner and Taylor Hall tonight vs. Dallas.

"I think it's a great time to have him back, especially through a run like we're having," fellow center Andrew Cogliano said. "He does everything well so it will be a nice confidence boost."

The last time the Oilers played the Stars (Jan. 11), Hall made his debut at centre. Now that Horcoff is back in action and slotted in on the first line, the talented rookie moves back to left wing.

When asked if he thinks Hall makes a better centerman or winger, head coach Tom Renney said he doesn't want to pigeonhole the 19-year-old.

"Everybody's sort of interchangeable, to a degree at least, and I don't think this early in his career we need to suggest that Taylor's only a winger," he said. "The fact of the matter is Horc can play the wing too. I've had Horc at world championships and he's played the wing."


In his first game back, Horcoff is ready to tackle a talented Stars squad.

"The good teams are really starting to separate themselves and they're one of them," he said. "They're a team that has two real good lines up front that can hurt you offensively if you're not careful. For us, we're going to have to do a good job with that."

First periods have been a struggle for the Oilers this season, and Renney wants to see the trend come to an end.

"There's no question you have give your opponent the opportunity to see you coming at them, and we have to do that again. I'm not sure why we don't," the coach said.

"I wish I could put my finger on it. It's not because they don't want to, I don't think it's because they're not capable of it, I do believe there's a little bit of anxiety there in terms of how this is going to go tonight, and we consequently stand and watch instead of being proactive. We're a good team when we go after teams."

Toughness needs to compliment speed and skill, Renney added.

"My vision of this team has all the speed components I talked about but also needs size and strength and it needs a bit of a smash-mouth look to it at times," he explained. "We do need a little bit more of that but it has to be able to play and it has to be able to have the requisite skills to play, and those skills are mental, they're physical, they're emotional.

"We're really at the front end of identifying exactly what this team needs to be a contender. As people are in and out of the line-up, you're looking at that, you're evaluating that, you're seeing who might be able to carry that on through this year."


Thanks in part to Ryan Jones' shorthanded goal, rookie Jeff Petry's first career marker, and steady shot-taking, the Oilers created some excitement Thursday night at Rexall Place. But in the end, the Stars were more successful in the goal department and finished with a 4-2 win.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Tom Gazzola & Bob Stauffer



The Oilers followed up Tuesday's loss to Minnesota with an hour-long practice at Rexall Place late Wednesday morning.

Like during the previous morning skate, a number of injured players participated in the drills, including Shawn Horcoff, Jim Vandermeer, and Gilbert Brule.

To assess whether a player is ready to rejoin the line-up, head coach Tom Renney administers a custom on-ice fitness test.

"[It's] just trying to mimic shifts, shift lengths, recovery period, work-to-rest ratio, and what the drop-off was with respect to that, and if in fact the player was ready to integrate back into a four-line rotation or three-pair rotation with the necessary rest and recovery," the coach explained.

"If I'm racing for the puck and I'm at the tail end of a shift and I'm not fit, I'm going to get run into the boards, something's going to happen, or they're going to get the puck and go score a goal. So it's protecting everybody."

"He's got to pass my test," Renney added. "My test is the last thing we do to make sure a player's ready to play."

Prior to practice, Horcoff passed the test. After missing 18 games with a knee injury, the Oilers captain will dress Thursday night vs. Dallas.

"Tom always has a couple protocols that he puts the guys through to make sure that he's comfortable with where their fitness level is, and it went really good today. It felt good during practice after that and I'm ready to go," Horcoff said.

The veteran centerman has been skating with the team for over a week and is eager to rejoin them in competition.

"It's been tough, it always is," he said. "You feel bad, you want to be out there, you want to help the guys, especially when they're going through what they have been lately here, with their struggles and that.

"But we're not far off. We're right there, and I think we're going to start getting healthy here and start getting some bodies back and hopefully that will put us over the edge."


Ales Hemsky

Although Vandermeer, Brule, and Jordan Eberle are not far behind Horcoff on the road to recovery, the news from sick bay isn't all positive. Tuesday night vs. Minnesota, All Star Ales Hemsky suffered a concussion and was unable to complete the game.

View Oilers Injury Report

The winger underwent an MRI early this afternoon, but Renney didn't have much information to pass on to the media.

"We think it's a concussion and I don't think MRI is going to disclose a whole lot, to be honest with you," the coach said. "The thing is, we don't know how long it's going to be either. It could be a couple days, it could be a week, it could be longer than that. We're not sure."

Another player who is questionable for tomorrow's game is Devan Dubnyk. The young goaltender was feeling the effects of the flu last night vs. the Wild, and although he technically backed up starter Nikolai Khabibulin, he was kept off the bench to protect the rest of the team from illness.

Dubnyk did not participate in practice today; instead, Edmonton's former video coach, Brian Ross, filled in at one end of the ice.


Despite the loss of Hemsky and the loss to Minnesota, the Oilers are trying to stay positive and focused heading into their next challenge.

"We had a bad start yesterday, and as far as our record lately, I think it's not indicative of the way we've been playing," Dustin Penner said. "We've been in a lot of one-goal games. A lot of those games have been within our grasp to win, whether it's the power-play that hasn't been scoring or unlucky bounces, we just seem to be able to lose games that maybe we shouldn't. And it's not for lack of effort or trying."


Theo Peckham

In the latest edition of our fan question series, John Simmer of Toronto submitted a question for Theo Peckham.

JOHN: "Who has helped you the most in your hockey career?"

THEO: "Probably a couple people. My mom and, actually, my agent (Bill Markle). He came to see me play in a prospects tournament when I was 15, and ever since then he's kind of been helping me out a little bit. He's been a big part of who I am today."

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 |, with files from Tom Gazzola


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