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THE TEAM TODAY: Growing Confidence

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The mood was upbeat during an up-tempo Oilers practice at Rexall Place late Wednesday morning.

Following a 4-1 victory over Dallas the night before, head coach Tom Renney preserved the line combinations, meaning forwards Steve MacIntyre, Colin Fraser, and Gilbert Brule, as well as defenceman Jason Strudwick, were the odd men out.

Renney admitted his tendency is to "stand pat" with line combinations after a win but added changes are possible for Thursday's game against Montreal.

"I'll sleep on it tonight and make a decision tomorrow morning about what we're going to do," he said.


A player who could shake up the forward lines is Brule. The 24-year-old centerman has missed 22 games due to illness  this season but, after practicing with the team for over a week, is nearly ready to return to the line-up.

"We wanted to make sure there was some good physical contact in his practice this morning and get some feedback with him on that and how he feels," Renney said. "His times are really good in the testing that I do, but when you really add the bumping and grinding, which he hasn't had much of, that's important feedback to get from him."

To stay within their numbers, the Oilers will have to assign a player when Brule is activated from the injured reserve. Renney said the team will cross that bridge when it comes.

"We'll make the tough decisions when we have to, but we'll do it based on an intelligent decision when a guy is ready or not," the coach stated. "[Brule] needs to play. He needs to find his sea legs again and get going and at least culminate this season, as tough as it's been for him, with at least having played."


Brule and defenceman Ryan Whitney (ankle) are the only Oilers left in sick bay, a marked improvement from late December when seven players were on the injured reserve. Thankfully, the team has received strong contributions from young call-ups, including Linus Omark, Liam Reddox, and most-recently Taylor Chorney.

Taylor Chorney shows off the puck from his first career NHL goal.

One day after being recalled for the second time this season, Chorney earned his first career NHL goal vs. Anaheim last night.

"It was pretty exciting," he said today. "To get it at home and get it in a win, it's a pretty good feeling around the room, and to get to enjoy it a little bit like that definitely made it pretty special."

The 23-year-old blueliner credits his success to a renewed focus on personal development.

"It's kind of cliche but it's true -- just try to improve at things -- and I think that's really paid off this year. I feel more consistent and I think this time around, even as opposed to last time, I feel a little bit more confident. Getting that goal last night, that helps a lot too, so hopefully I can just keep taking baby steps towards becoming as best player as I can," he said.

Coach Renney values the call-up contributions and hopes the young players can find permanent positions within the NHL club.

"We hope that that trend continues to the point where, beyond just that game or that series of games, the people that are here get an obvious chance to stay at some point in time and really add to our culture as a team, obviously, and our success on the ice," he said.


Buoyed from Tuesday's victory, Edmonton is looking to start a winning streak by defeating Montreal Thursday night.

"We can't be a one-off team," Renney stated. "Like I've said many times before, we almost have to overcome ourselves in order to win successively, and so we have to make sure that the priority tomorrow night is to play a complete game."

Habs fans are famous for flocking to their team, and Renney expects a festive affair tomorrow.

"It's certainly a bipartisan crowd, there's no two ways about that, and there'll be lots of noise either way, no question. But it is a fun environment and that's the way it should be," he said. "You'd love to see that in every single rink because the game is that popular and everyone has allegiances or alliances to different teams. But certainly the original six seem to do that to everybody."

On the ice, the Oilers are expecting some fierce competition.

"The way Montreal comes at you, and they can in waves, they're quick and they counterattack with the best of them," Renney added. "We have to make sure that we bring everything of ourselves in order to be successful."


In the latest edition of our fan question series, Corey McDonald of Edmonton submitted a question for Sam Gagner.

COREY: "What was your favourite minor hockey memory growing up?"

Sam Gagner

SAM: "The last two years I played minor hockey we won the Ontario championship. I played with Johnny (Tavares)  and a bunch of other guys that are either pretty close to the NHL or playing NCAA or something like that, so we had a pretty good team.

"We had played together for so long that when you make it to that final tournament and you're able to win it, it's such a good feeling. That's something I'll always remember."

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



Oilers game day began with morning skate at Rexall Place at 10am. Head coach Tom Renney ran the following forward lines:

Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Hall - Cogliano - Eberle
Omark - Gagner - Paajarvi
Jacques - Reddox - Jones

In addition to Gilbert Brule, who continues to suffer from the flu, winger Steve MacIntyre, defenceman Jason Strudwick, and center Colin Fraser will sit out the game.

Fraser's first experience as a healthy scratch was earlier this month when the team was in Columbus. According to Renney, the 26-year-old is not the only Oiler who could play with "a little more pop."

"He's not alone in this department. I think there's other guys of a similar status if you will, size if you will, that need to do the same thing. So maybe this is the beginning of making sure guys understand what's expected of them so at the very least our young guys know that this is what the coach will deliver on if you're not performing properly."


While Fraser will sit out tonight's contest, another player has earned his way back into the line-up. Yesterday, the Oilers assigned rookie defenceman Jeff Petry and recalled fellow defenceman Taylor Chorney from the Oklahoma City Barons.

"We pay attention to what the coaching staff tells us down there with respect to who's doing what," Renney said. "You don't just hand a guy an opportunity. Chorney's back because he was the best guy down there. That's what we asked for, and that's what we got."

The 23-year-old is eager to make the most of this call-up, his second of the season.

"Anytime you get called up it's a great feeling," he said. "Everybody wants to play in the NHL and to get called up again at this point in the season, it's definitely exciting. I'm excited for the opportunity."

Chorney admits his season started slowly but added his confidence has grown considerably in the past two months.

"I think since maybe Christmas time, a little bit before that, I've started to feel pretty comfortable out there and I think I've started to control the game a little bit more and take things over a bit. And I definitely feel more confident in my game."


With Sunday's 4-0 loss to Anaheim still fresh in their minds, the Oilers are looking for a more consistent performance -- and better result -- vs. Dallas tonight.

"It wasn't our best games of the year for sure, but our schedule is pretty good lately. It allows us to get back on track," Taylor Hall said. "If we can play well tonight and win a game, it kind of takes away that feeling of not playing the way we wanted over the past few games."

With only seven home wins on the season, the Oilers are desperate to reverse their recent Rexall Place results.

"I think what's happened to us here is we've had a lack of success at home and there's an undercurrent there of not frustration but a little bit of anxiety if you will, trepidation," Renney explained. "We play fine on the road because we don't worry about changes, we don't worry about who's up against who, we just go play. And we've tried to encourage that here at home.

"I think the big thing is we have to park all that other stuff and just really deal with playing hockey. We've been okay doing that this year. We haven't been good enough doing it at home."

The head coach hopes to see an improvement in his club's energy and mental game.

"I'm looking for mental toughness and that includes how you prepare yourself to play, your marriage to the game plan, ... and playing this game 200 by 85 with the necessary intensity, battle level, and smarts," he said.

"With that, and with the type of speed I think we've got with our ability to move the puck well when we want to, we can back teams off, and we have against Dallas."


An early goal by Jordan Eberle set the tone for a fast-paced game in which the Oilers excelled. The team displayed power-play potency, strong goaltending, and a dominant performance from captain Shawn Horcoff enroute to a 4-1 win over the Stars.

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



Athough Rexall Place was absent of chocolate and flowers this Valentine's Day, the Oilers used the most romantic day of the year to mend a rocky relationship with the object of their affection: the win column.

Wooing the win column hasn't been easy for Edmonton this season. Although the Oilers had posted some strong performances over the past few weeks, Sunday night's 4-0 loss to Anaheim was a disappointing derailment.

"Up until the midpoint of the second period I thought we had lots of opportunity to score goals and even take the lead," head coach Tom Renney said after practice. "When they scored their second goal, I wondered where our team went. I don't know if that's mental toughness, if it's succumbing to the situation, the circumstances, and saying 'Oh well' and that's certainly what we have to avoid, if that were the case."


In anticipation of Tuesday's game vs. Dallas, General Manager Steve Tambellini held a closed-door meeting with the players prior to practice.

"There was a lot of people involved, a lot of comments going on," captain Shawn Horcoff later explained. "We've had a few of these talks this year at certain times and responded well to that so I think the challenge has been put forth.

"It's a pretty common theme that everyone's not really happy with the effort that was put forth out there, especially at home. We had a good talk about it today but we'll see how guys respond to it tomorrow. I expect it to be back to the way we know we can play, high energy and high intensity."

Renney did not attend the meeting but was confident the message was well-received.

"In terms of what [Tambellini] views from up top there and the circumstances that he sees around every team in the NHL right now, with the date and what looms on the horizon, I think it was important for Steve to come in and deliver a message, and it was a very good one," Renney said. "We're all trying to go in the same direction here and it doesn't hurt to change the voice once in a while."

Reiterating a familiar message, the coach added that positivity, development, and evolution continue to be Oilers priorities.

"We're not here to tweak this culture, we're here to change it. And it's painful. I've said it before: it's like putting a cast on an arm that's broken. You just can't do what you want to do and it's not a lot of fun, there's no latitude, but you've got to fix the break and our team's been broken. This year we're working on that and I think we've got a lot of really good things in place in terms of how we want to play, who we want to play with, the type of game that works best for us," he said.

"We have to dwell on the good things that we've done and really work hard to rectify those areas that present concern to us."

On the ice, Renney ensured practice was productive and fast-paced, something players want to carry into Tuesday's game.

"We had a hard, competitive practice, uptempo. I think that's what our game needs to be like from now out," Andrew Cogliano said. "Last night, we felt like our energy, our compete level, our battle level was non-existent for a lot of parts of the game, and I think today was a good step in getting ready and upping that for tomorrow."


Taylor Chorney

The Oilers will have a slightly different look to their blueline vs. the Stars: late Monday morning, defenceman Taylor Chorney was recalled from the Oklahoma City Barons. In return, Jeff Petry was sent back down.

"[It's just to] give him a chance to get confident again -- I don't think we've seen the last of Jeff this year at all," Renney explained. "Chorns is playing very, very well down there, so it's just a quick little exchange and we'll see how long it lasts, but my guess is that Petey will be back up here."



You can watch Chorney & the rest of the Oilers battle for two points live from Rexall Place on Tuesday, Feb. 15. The game vs. the Stars starts at 7:00pm and limited tickets are available.



Andrew Cogliano

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Amanda L. of Edmonton submitted a question for Andrew Cogliano.

AMANDA: "What is your best pump-up song, and what is the most emabarassing song that you listen to?"

ANDREW: "I like Eminem stuff. I really like his whole new CD. He's pretty good and a lot of the guys in here like to listen to him before a game to get pumped up, so I'll go with that.

I'm not really embarrassed about any of the songs I listen to. Everyone's got different tastes, but I generally listen to the same kind of music."

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 Ryan Dittrick

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