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The Team Today: Friday Focus

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


In the surprisingly warm confines of Rexall Place, the Oilers followed up their thrilling come-from-behind win over the Blue Jackets with a short 11am practice.

In what has become the norm in recent weeks, injuries and illness kept seven players off the ice. Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios, Ryan Stone, Fernando Pisani, and Marc Pouliot continued to suffer from their various ailments, while Gilbert Brule remained out with the flu. Mike Comrie, who missed Thursday's morning skate due to a fever but played that night, was also absent.

"Mike is still sufferent a little bit of the after effects of being ill yesterday, and so he's staying home today," Head Coach Pat Quinn explained. "If Mike can't come down to Calgary tomorrow, then there's a good chance Jason (Strudwick) will be lined up at forward."

On the topic of Brule's status for this weekend's road games, Head Coach Pat Quinn was uncertain. "Our training staff said that he might join us on the trip in practice, but we haven't been confirmed of that yet.

"[The trainers] are very cautious with this, obviously -- as they should be," Quinn continued. "This seems to be a very serious thing. At the same time, they're probably looking at a lot of stuff here. It might not just be only the flu symptoms, although that's what we've been told at this point."


With the Oilers line-up depleted, Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger played an active role in a few powerplay drills. Although he was wearing a track suit and white ball cap, the former Oilers captain and Stanley Cup winner didn't look too out of place on the ice.


Dustin Penner's five-point performance the previous night was the topic du jour in the locker room after practice.

We're proud of him, he's played great, but he hasn't really surprised anybody. We know how good he can be," captain Ethan Moreau said. "That's pro sports for you. It's amazing how things can turn around. And it shows you his mental strengths. It could went the other way and felt sorry for himself after everything -- after last year, the trade stuff."

Penner admitted he was overwhelmed by fan reaction, including a standing ovation after his second goal, and hopes to continue giving them something to cheer about.

"It was a pretty special moment," he said. "I wish I could recapture that feeling whenever I wanted just by snapping my fingers. Hopefully if I continue to play the way I have been, maybe those nights will be more frequent.

"My confidence is pretty high right now, but with that you have to worry that you're not bordering on thinking too offensively and being too content with everything. You've got to keep pushing."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


Wednesday morning started bright and early with a team autograph signing at Rexall Place. With coffees in hand, each player sat down to sign 250 player cards for the Rally Against Cancer.

The cards will be attached to brand new Oilers fan scarves that will be sold by the Oilers Ladies at the home game on October 29. Each scarf and associated player card will be sold for $20, with all proceeds going to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation in support of cancer research.


The practice was rather scarce with several players feeling under the weather or injured.  So how big of a frustration is this for players around the room?

"It's not just our team that's going to be effected by it.  You just try and keep as clean as you can and try to stay hydrated, and stay out of each others faces!" O'Sullivan smirked about the bug going around.

The players who did not skate were: Smid, Souray, Stone, Pisani, Brule, Pouliot and Staios. With that said the lines were quite scattered today.

"Our medical staff is trying to stay right on top of it, making the right decisions with regards to regular vaccinations and H1N1 vaccinations. We are sure that all of this is just the ordinary flu at least that's the way they are going about it." Quinn said about the flu bug going around.


Skating on the top line today was Penner with Gagner and Hemsky. The second line was Comrie, Horcoff and O'Sullivan. Stortini, Cogliano and Moreau were together on what looked like the third line and the forth line was short a player but had Nilsson and Jacques and hopefully will have Brule for tomorrow.

"We are still trying to figure out who we are and who can play with who and how we can be best be 20 guys, how we can best be a team." Quinn said about his lines.

The Oilers have struggled with shot differential in the last few games, Quinn says that although he is aware and concerned about the shot differential, he doesn't think it's the key stat to be looking at.

"As far as the shots go, I am worried about differential. I'm not always believed that you have to have X number of shots to be a good team nor giving up so many." Quinn said.

"That particular statistic is not something you look at first, but I am certainly aware of two of the games that I didn't like. The one the other night against Minnesota there was a shot inbalance there. At the end of the night, the stat I really worry about is chances, and we were ahead of them by a good margin."



The Edmonton Oilers returned to the ice on Sunday after taking the day off Saturday. The players were on the ice for a lengthy practice. The entire team was there with the exception of the injured Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios, Marc Pouliot and Fernando Pisani plus the ill Ales Hemsky.

Hemsky did arrive at the rink that morning but is still ill enough that he can't even start exercising again. He met briefly with head coach Pat Quinn.

"He's been hit pretty hard with this thing," said Quinn. "I did spend some time with him (this morning) and he's not ready to even exercise at this point."


A good majority of practice time on Sunday was dedicated to the power play. The team went with some interesting combinations, including Penner, Gagner and Brule up front on the second unit (Horcoff centered Comrie and Nilsson on unit one).

On the point on the second unit, Patrick O'Sullivan played the right side with a rotation of Denis Grebeshkov and Taylor Chorney on the left point. O'Sullivan said that the point position is nothing new to him as he played it before with the L.A. Kings.

"I played the point in L.A. and in junior so I'm comfortable there. It's another option with Shelly being out," he said.

The added defensive responsibility that comes with playing the point didn't concern O'Sullivan either.

"The safety comes into play maybe towards the end of the power play. You want to make sure there's a D there when the guy comes out of the box but overall it's not much different for me. I'm not going to do anything risky," he continued. "I think I can skate backwards so that's okay."

"If there is a shot or a one-timer I'll try and take it but with the guys we have on that unit I think puck movement is what we want."


Ladislav Smid is off to a great start this season, taking advantage of added minutes with injuries to Souray and Staios.

Smid is currently +8 which tops the Oilers and ranks fourth in the entire NHL.

"That's a shocker," Smid laughed. "I've got no words for it, but we are seven games in - it's a little bit too early."

"It would be for sure nice to beat Nick Lidstrom's record," he chuckled after being informed that he's currently on pace for +90.

He attributed much of his success to his defence partner and locker-mate Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky ranks eighth in the NHL at +7 right now.

"They do have that offensive flair to them, that's where it's coming from," Quinn said. "They did well."

Author: Marc Ciampa |




The team arrived back in Oil town late last night after dropping a tough one to the Chicago Blackhawks. Oilers coaching staff did not have the team skate today however did call for a brief team meeting to discuss last night's game as well as look forward to tomorrow. Quinn commented on Oilers defence and what he saw from our forwards.

  "Last night I liked four of our forwards out of twelve. The four were normally you people would be calling our forth line but the past two games they've been our first line. I'm still at the stage of saying this twelve has got to get better somehow, at least in the last game and a half."  Quinn said.

"There's the mechanics of passing and there's also the positioning of passing that's required and its also recognizing the opportunity to pass. Right now our defense  are puck carriers first, passers maybe, after they run out of room. I'd rather it the other way, but we're not there yet.
You've got to drill that in somehow." Quinn talks of the Oilers defence.


Tomorrow will mark the first return of former Oiler Kyle Brodziak. Kyle was drafted by the Oilers in the 7th round of the 2003 draft. Last season he played in 79 games putting up 11 goals and 16 assists.

"I've got a lot of friends on the team that I'll be playing against. We definitely want to win this game and I want to play my best. Obviously under the circumstances, of getting traded, you always want to come back and show the team that hopefully they see that they made a mistake giving up on me." Brodziak commented on coming back to Edmonton.

"It's been great so far, there is a good group of guys on the team and so far it's been a great city for me and my wife to live in."

For the past few years, the Wild have been trained to play a very defensive style of hockey but have a big adjustment this season with a new offensive coaching style.

"It's a big adjustment, 90 percent of the guys are used to playing a sit back style of hockey and to totally come in and change it, there's got to be a bit of adjustment period but I think guys are starting to get familiar with it. It's just a matter of eliminating some mental mistakes and I think we're starting to grow as a team." Brodziak says about the new coaching style.


"The first period of both games I think I was spining a little bit, new building, new team.
There was a little bit of nerves there but the more I settled in, the more shifts I had, I got pretty comfortable out there." Chorney said about his first game.

"It makes a huge difference, just one year. Coming into training camp your second time, just knowing the guys, the trainers and just being more comfortable. I think that adds a lot to your own confidence. It makes everything out on the ice a lot easier, just being comfortable around everybody." He said.

Quinn seemed impressed with Taylor Chorney's play on the road trip and that he will more than likely see more time.

Author: Kristi Hennessy |

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