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The Team Today: Friday in California

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers left Edmonton mid-morning and landed in San Jose early Friday afternoon, stopping first at the Sharks practice facility for a skate.

"You always expect the unexpected," said Oilers Associate Coach Tom Renney when asked about the tough season so far and whether it was something his staff had anticipated. "The big thing for all of us is to be true to ourselves, true to our organization."

Renney continued to remain positive, looking at the larger picture and not just the results he has witnessed from this current season.

"I look at it as a great challenge and probably the first step in making sure the Edmonton Oilers are not just significant in the next little while but in years to come," Renney continued.

"We want to make sure we lay the groundwork and I think that's the trick to making sure it's a good organization is to make sure it lasts a long time."


Shawn Horcoff did not skate today in San Jose, after missing Thursday's game with an illness.Ryan Stone also didn't skate and is questionable for tomorrow. Gilbert Brule remained at home in Edmonton having not made the trip as he continues to battle the flu.

As the flu starts to creep up on the team again, Renney didn't want to use any of that as an excuse.

"We've just got to play hockey. There are a lot of people in less fortunate situations than we are, we've just got to get the job done."

Author: Marc Ciampa |


The Oilers did not run lines at the morning skate, but fans can assume Head Coach Pat Quinn will ice the trios showcased in Wednesday's practice. That morning, the only notable change was Andrew Cogliano moved from the dot to the left wing, with Ryan Potulny at center and Patrick O'Sullivan on the right. Ethan Moreau, Sam Gagner, and Fernando Pisani also skated together.

Prepping for the Pens

After being put between the pipes early in the second period Tuesday night vs. Nashville,
Devan Dubnyk will make the start tonight vs. the Penguins.

"Every game for me right now is exciting, any time I get a chance to get in there, so this is just another one for me and obviously going to be a good test for all of us," he said.

When asked about facing the formidable Penguins, the young goalie said he approaches every game the same way.

"Obviously I can't sit here and tell you that there's not guys over there that you've got to be aware of, but I've only got four games experience, so for me right now to get on the ice I've got to be at the top of my game, no matter who I'm playing against," Dubnyk said. "I have to play goal the same way I usually would and that's what I'll try to go do."

Sheldon Souray has stared down Crosby & Co. before, and he admitted that the visitors will be "tough to beat."

"We've got to keep working on the things that we've been talking about here and we're going to have our hands full with guys like Crosby and Malkin and Billy Guerin's been playing really well, so we've got to have our best game face on here tonight and be prepared," he said. 

A welcome flame

No, it's not another visit from our provincial rivals. The Oilers will welcome the Olympic Flame to Rexall Place tonight, along with an impressive selection of past and present winter Olympic athletes.

Edmonton dominated the first 40 minutes of Thursday's game, however it was the last 20 that decided the winner. The Oilers entered the third with 22 shots and a 2-0 lead, but the Penguins posted three unanswered goals in the final frame to take the game 3-2.

Andrew Cogliano and Lubomir Visnovsky tallied the first two goals of the game, while Devan Dubnyk finished with 28 saves in his third career NHL start. Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury were the stars for the victors, posting three assists and 33 saves respectively.

Prior to the game, Oilers fans were treated to a special pre-game ceremony involving the Olympic Torch and a handful of past and present Olympians. The torch was carried into Rexall Place and was held proudly at center ice during the Canadian and American national anthem.
Author: Jen Sharpe |


On Wednesday morning, the Oilers announced that goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin would be undergoing surgery on his back to repair a herniated disc. As a result, he will most likely be lost to the team for the remainder of the 2009-10 regular season.

Following a lengthy and spirited practice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, Oilers players and head coach Pat Quinn discussed how the team will cope with the loss of its number one goaltender.

"You just stay focused," stated Sheldon Souray. "We can't worry about who's here and who's not here. The guys who are playing each and every night just have to keep getting better individually and as a team we'll keep trying to grow. There's no sense worrying about who we don't have."

Souray is familiar with Khabibulin's situation, having gone down with a season-ending injury in his first year with the Oilers.

"It happened to me my first year too," Souray said. "You want to go out and prove yourself. He's aproving goaltender who was winning us some games singlehandedly earlier in the year. It's a big loss but we haven't had him for some time now."

Centre Shawn Horcoff also went down with a season-ending injury several years back so he knows the frustration felt by the Oilers netminder.

"I'm sure it's frustrating for him. It's frustrating for everyone," said Horcoff. "It's a good opportunity for the young guys we have here to get some games in and get some experience."

Head coach Pat Quinn felt that the finality of the loss doesn't change much with the team as it is right now. .

"We have been actually responding with our kids anyway. Clearly, he wasn't capable of even coming to the rink and participating in any fashion. It just became official," said Quinn.

"I think based on the fact that we have two young guys - both of them are considering real prospects for the future - (Dubnyk's) here now, we can't let him sit," Quinn remarked.

"I say we'll see some action out of him until the time that we have to do something else," the coach continued. "There's a good chance he'll play tomorrow but that's not decided firmly at this point."


Following practice at Millennium Place, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini held a media availability at Rexall Place to talk about the Khabibulin situation.

"Nik felt good at the beginning that it was something he could recover from. It didn't get any worse but it never got any better," said Tambellini. "He gave it eight weeks, visited a couple of doctors - one in Denver and one in Los Angeles."

The General Manager acknowledged that losing the Russian netminder was a huge blow to the team despite Deslauriers' valiant effort to keep the team in games.

"He's our MVP and we miss his presence and his ability, obviously. But it's just something we have to deal with," he said. 

Khabibulin has had back problems before, most recently in 2007-08 with Chicago, but Tambellini feels moving forward it won't be an issue.

"Nik has a disc problem. He suffered some issues a couple years ago which were minor at that time. There are many players playing in that dressing room right now with bad backs but maybe not to the extent of this," he said. "He's one of our most fit athletes and there will be no issues with him from that standpoint after this.


Pat Quinn will carry the Olympic Torch today as part of the route through the City of Edmonton.

"I was asked by VANOC," Quinn said. "They gave me an option of where I could participate and this is terrific for me. A tremendous honour. I was lucky to be in the Olympics two times and have such great memories of that."

Quinn is an ambassador for the Vancouver Olympic committee and mentioned he's very excited to see the upcoming Winter Games in his home country.

"Canadians all across this country have had a chance to carry the Flame. When you watch the daily updates on where our torch is you can really see our national pride."

Asked whether he'll walk or run his 300 metre segment, Quinn didn't hesitate.

"I haven't done a lot of running in awhile. It'll be a fast twitch sort of. I'm going to take my time on it. I want to milk it."

His torch route passes through a segment of Groat Road near Westmount Centre.

"I don't think I've been on Groat Road since 1963," Quinn chuckled.

Author: Marc Ciampa |


The Oilers took to the ice for morning skate shortly after 10am, but without Gilbert Brule. Head Coach Pat Quinn later confirmed that the forward has been sidelined with the flu for the fourth time this year.

"We're trying to do some further study on why the frequency. The past two days, he decided to practice yesterday but came in ill, and this morning was the same."

Brule is not expected to play tonight, and as a result, Jean-Francois Jacques should skate with Patrick O'Sullivan and Ryan Potulny.

The plan vs. the Predators

Tonight's game vs. Nashville will be the Oilers first opportunity to employ what they've learned at this past weekend's "mini-camp." The Oilers participated in intense video, off-ice, and on-ice sessions, and Quinn hopes that the efforts pay off in tighter systems and, ultimately, a win.

"The system is our guideline," Quinn said. "That's your plan for success. When you give up the plan you haven't got much of a chance because that's when ad-libs start and excuses start and failure starts. We have been a team that's given up the plan on a lot of nights when we've met adversity out there. Every team, 30 teams, hit adversity in very game and we aren't the team that has been able to fight through it."

Defenceman Tom Gilbert called tonight's game a test.

"This will be a good test for us to see if the effort we put in this weekend pays off," he added. "It's got to start from somewhere, and we've only got 30 some games left, take it a game at a time, and hopefully the video and the system play we worked on in practice will pay off."


Although the Oilers dominated the shot clock and finished with an impressive 41 attempts, the club struggled early in net and was unable to crack Predators' goalie Pekka Rinne until the end of the game. The late surge was too little, too late and Edmonton dropped a 5-3 decision to Nashville Tuesday night.

Jean-Francois Jacques, Ryan Potulny and Dustin Penner earned Edmonton's three goals, while goalie Jeff Deslauriers took the loss after allowing four goals on 14 attempts in the first 26 minutes. Back-up Devan Dubnyk closed the game with 13 saves.
Author: Jen Sharpe |
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