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The Team Today: Friday Focus

by Kristi Hennessy / Edmonton Oilers


Friday morning started bright and early with a massive team signing. There were over 400 memorabilia pieces that were set out on tables to be signed by the entire team.  In addition, each player had their own individual table with items for one autograph.

Marc Pouliot and Ryan Stone practiced today with Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger at about 9:30 am in hopes that they will return this weekend, at least to practice with the entire team.

Team practice started at 11:00 am and was better attended than yesterday's scarce turnout. Ethan Moreau, Ales Hemsky, Jean-Francois Jacques, Shawn Horcoff, Liam Reddox, Sam Gagner and Lubomir Visnovsky,  all who were absent yesterday, dressed for practice today. 

“Today was a really good practice for me in terms of game situation drills and I felt good out there,” said JF Jacques. “I wouldn’t say I’m one hundred percent but I’m going to have to have a good meeting with the trainers and the doctors and see where we’re at for tomorrow night.”


Ethan Moreau should be good to make his return to the lineup tomorrow night and here’s what he had to say about getting ready for Chicago.

“It’s one of those games you have to get ready for or else you’ll be embarrassed,” said Moreau. “You always try to prepare your best, but over a course of an 82 game schedule; this is one of those games where you have to be a hundred percent, you have to really focus on the task at hand, or we’ve seen what can happen. We’re going to be ready that’s for sure.”


Denis Grebeshkov, Fernando Pisani, Taylor Chorney, Robert Nilsson and Mike Comrie were not able to skate today. With 12 forwards and seven defencemen on the ice, it would appear that we’ll have enough bodies to host the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night although a handful of those players are still questionable. The new question is; who will they call up next and are we almost in an emergency situation allowing us to call up Mr. Jordan Eberle from the Regina Pats? Only the docs can tell. The lines that Quinn ran today that might not mean too much for tomorrow’s game were as follows.

Horcoff, Penner and Hemsky on the top, Jacques, Gagner and Stortini second line, O’Sullivan, Brule and Reddox together on third and Cogliano, Moreau and Potulny on the fourth.

The Oilers squad worked a fair bit on their power-play, penalty kill and three on three down-low drills. They practiced fighting for the puck behind the net and passing out in front, being ready for the quick pass, and getting the shot away quickly. As most hockey fans know, the Chicago Blackhawks are a very fast, young and talented hockey club. They are coming off a dominating 7-1 victory last night to the Calgary Flames who aren’t exactly a struggling team.

“They have four fast lines that just attack with great speed and they move the puck very well,” Gilbert commented on the speedy Blackhawks. “They have guys on the back end that can jump up into the play. Turnovers are going to be the key tomorrow and puck possession. They are a good puck possession team and we don’t want to be chasing them around all night.”

Author: Kristi Hennessy |


Hours after the Oilers stole a 6-4 win from the Avalanche, the depleted team returned to the scene of the crime for practice Thursday morning.

Over 10 players were missing from the skate due to illness and injury, so many that Head Coach Pat Quinn required help from the media to run through the list.

Here's a summary of what Quinn had to say:

Mike Comrie: "has got mono. He's not going to play or practice until he's through the full phase of it."

Ethan Moreau: "When he came this morning to the rink, our medical staff wanted him to take the day off, so he did that."

Shawn Horcoff: "He tried to practice but couldn't get through it, so he left."

Robert Nilsson: "He's out [with a concussion]."

Liam Reddox: "is gone. You saw him get hit by that one shot by a player, so he's gone for an x-ray on the ankle."

Lubomir Visnovsky: "needed a day. He's still suffering from being banged about four or five days ago."

Ales Hemsky: "He's still sore from upper body stuff that's been going on with him for a while."

Sam Gagner: "went to have his hip further looked at."

Denis Grebeshkov: "is still out for a period of time."

Fernando Pisani is also out due to issues with colitis, while defenceman Taylor Chorney continues to suffer from an ankle injury.


Injured forwards Marc Pouliot and Jean-Francois Jacques started early, hitting the ice an hour before the full team practiced. Jacques, who is suffering from a back injury, stayed on to participate in his first full practice since November 2nd.

After suffering a knee injury one month ago vs. Vancouver, Ryan Stone is also nearing his return to the line-up. "We expect to have him practicing with us by the weekend," Quinn said.


Tom Gilbert
Along with the team's medical staff, pressure is also being felt by defenceman Tom Gilbert. After missing plays that resulted in two Colorado goals, Gilbert was benched by Quinn and finished the game with only seven minutes of playing time.

"It's been a rough beginning [of the season] for me," Gilbert said after practice. "When you're sitting watching the game on the bench, it's a clear sign that you're doing something wrong. And obviously, I know what's going on. I know that my game has got to get better defensively, and I've got to keep working through it."

Quinn agrees with Gilbert's assessment, but won't place the blame solely on the blueliner's shoulders.

"We speak generally all the time about our positional play and missed assignments and I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure that he missed a couple plays there.

"But here we are nailing one guy: Tom. We've got six guys that have not been doing a strong job on the defensive zone coverage. That's one of the reasons why we've got so many goals against. We've got to get better at it.

"I'm not pointing at Tom," Quinn emphasized. "If you count six or seven defence, plus four or five centres, you've got 11 people you should be pointing fingers at. So let's not just pull one guy out of the pot."

Author: Jen Sharpe |



After being recalled from Springfield of the AHL, Dean Arsene arrived in Atlanta this morning to join the Oilers for practice. He could get into the lineup of Souray is not cleared to go.

"If we get approval on Sheldon, he might be out of luck but we don't know that yet," Oilers head coach Pat Quinn remarked.

Arsene has never played an NHL regular season game and has an opportunity to do so tomorrow.

"I can appreciate where he is right now. He's spent his dues, it would be nice if he had a chance," said Quinn.

"I didn't believe them at the start, thought it was a cruel joke."

"This is the first time I've been recalled. I didn't know what to do, what to pack. I felt completely lost, felt like I was a rookie in junior again."

"My mindset coming into training camp was, new organization and I wanted to impress. I thought I had a good camp."


Defenceman Taylor Chorney departed for Edmonton today from Atlanta to get a medical assessment on his ankle.


After leaving practice yesterday early due to an injury after a blocked shot, Patrick O'Sullivan was back on the ice today.

"It's part of the game, I guess. Nothing too serious, I'll be able to play tomorrow and that's pretty much it."

"I'd call it a bruised foot. It's hockey so stuff like that happens."

He skated with Sam Gagner and Mike Comrie for the second straight day. At 5'11", O'Sullivan stands as the tallest player on the highly-skilled line.

"The three of us can move the puck well. It might be the first time in my NHL career that I'm going to be the tallest guy on my line so I'm looking forward to that," O'Sullivan joked. "I get to provide the muscle."

O'Sullivan broke his scoring drought last game in Buffalo, giving him a boost of confidence as a result.

"To get a goal makes anybody feel good, instantly gives you more confidence and gives you more energy."


The Oilers had an opportunity to do some pre-scouting on Friday night when they watched the Atlanta Thrashers face the Los Angeles Kings. The Thrashers laid a beating on L.A., winning 7-0.

"Everything they touched turned to silver. They reminded me of Rumpelstilskin last night," joked Quinn.

"They scored a lot of goals yesterday, Kovalchuk looked very good," noted Ladislav Smid.

The blueliner also talked about having the last couple of days to practice together as a team and the benefits that came with that.

"We had a couple good practices. Worked on systems. We've really got to work hard to get back above .500,"
he said.

With the injury to Grebeshkov, Smid will be called upon to play some bigger minutes and perhaps some power play time depending if Souray returns tomorrow or not.

"I feel bad for Grebber, we're going to really miss him," Smid continued. "I think I'm getting more and more minutes that really helps."

Compounding the situation, Smid is sitll not quite 100% after a second bout with the flu.

"It's getting better and better every day. I would say the breathing is the biggest issue. My energy level is getting back too so I should be okay for the next couple of days."

Author: Marc Ciampa, with files from Bob Stauffer



Shortly after the Oilers arrived at the Thrashers' practice facility in the Atlanta suburbs, GM Steve Tambellini addressed the media outside the rink, providing an update on illnesses and injuries within the club.

Of all the updates he delivered, the most current involved forward Fernando Pisani, who flew home earlier in the day due to complications with colitis.

"He'll go see his doctor back in Edmonton," Tambellini explained. "I'm not sure what the next steps are for him, but his time away I would determine to be indefinite at this point."

Pisani's teammates were supportive of the ailing veteran.

"He's had a tough go and you can see the last couple weeks he hasn't been feeling 100%. You could see it in his face," Sheldon Souray said. "He's a big part of the team, but it's definitely best for him to get healthy and make sure he's 100%."

"He came back that one summer and was still figuring out how to deal with it --that was tough," Shawn Horcoff remembered. "But I think this time it's different. It's obviously not as severe. However he needs to deal with it. It's a matter of life and just your overall health."


Denis Grebeshkov

After suffering a knee injury in Wednesday's game in Buffalo, Denis Grebeshkov will be out until at least the end of the month. "Grebby looks like he'll be a few weeks for sure with an MCL sprain, but we'll probably know better after this week," Tambellini said.

Jean-Francois Jacques

Tambellini did not have any new information on Jacques, who has been out with back issues since the beginning of the month.

"Kenny (Lowe, Oilers Athletic Therapist) has told me that he's not as stiff, a little bit more flexibility than what he's had the last little while, so hopefully he's soon. We miss him."

Ryan Stone

According to Tambellini, another player who is making improvements is Ryan Stone, who suffered a knee injury October 19 vs. Vancouver. "He's moving along well. Kenny felt positive about him before we left. He's been on the ice and we've been really aggressive with him immediately after he was hurt, so hopefully soon. He's progressing well."

With Grebeshkov and Pisani back in Edmonton, and young d-man Taylor Chorney still out due to a sore ankle, Tambellini admitted that the team may call up a defenceman from Springfield.

"It's something that you can't control," he said. "There's some different things happening but you have to deal with it. We've dealt with a lot in this past month though."

Potentially adding to the injury issues, Patrick O'Sullivan left practice early. There is no news on his status.


After practice, Shawn Horcoff declared himself ready to play on Sunday.

"I'm going to play on for sure," he stated."I think I was kind of close last game, but still the extra four days would be beneficial. Like I said, I'm feeling better and better every day. I'll be ready to go."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers left Denver bright and early Monday morning, arriving in Canada's Capital city by 3pm. The team headed straight to the rink for an off-day practice, which started out with a creative drill orchestrated by veterans Steve Staios and Ethan Moreau.

Gathered at center ice, the players all switched sticks and played two games of shinny shooting the opposite way. Mike Comrie impressed the media with his ability to play right handed, while most of the other players looked slightly clumsy and awkward.

Although the lighthearted stick work display was taking it to the extreme, the Oilers have been no strangers to changes of other kinds this season. Illness and injury have impacted almost a dozen players on the team, and Monday was no different.

After being hit a few times Sunday night in Colorado -- including once in the face by the puck -- young defenceman Taylor Chorney took to the ice but quickly retired back to the locker room.

Head Coach Pat Quinn later announced that he was suffering from a sore ankle. "Later on in the game, he went down and someone fell on him, so there's a sprain in the ankle. He tried it but wasn't able to finish or even go out to practice."

Forward Robert Nilsson also missed practice. "Apparently he got hit in the head someplace during the game and has been tested by our trainers," Quinn explained. "On the plane he seemed fine, right about the acceptable stage, but after we got off the flight, apparently the numbers escalated to the point where he's feeling nauseous."


With Chorney and Nilsson questionable for tomorrow's game, the Oilers got some good news from Ladislav Smid and Sheldon Souray. Both players participated in practice for the first time since falling ill and suffering a concussion respectively.

"We're going to see in the morning where [Smid] is," Quinn said. "He's feeling better. I didn't talk to him after his practice but we put him up front for getting a little more skating for him ... Hopefully he might be ready for tomorrow and we're open to having him come in."

As for Souray, he said that he's happy to be skating with the team again. "It felt good. It takes a little while to get back and get your timing and start seeing things ... I'm just happy to get out there and get a little bit of rhythm and see where I'm at.

"I've still got a ways to go before I get in game shape, but it's just a big lift emotionally and mentally to get back out there."


Brule points out the location of his nearly invisible 'stache.
The Oilers gamefaces are getting a little more grizzly as the road trip wears on, thanks in part to the Movember fundraiser. Nine players and three trainers are currently growing moustaches in support of prostate cancer, and we took updated photos of their progress today.

Notable 'stache news: Nine days in, Gilbert Brule is struggling to show any growth, while Zack Stortini and underdog Taylor Chorney are neck-and-neck in the cheesy category. Recent callups Liam Reddox and Ryan Potulny deserve honourable mentions for their excellent efforts both on the ice and above their lips.
Author: Jen Sharpe |
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