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THE TEAM TODAY: Happy Returns

by Ryan Frankson / Edmonton Oilers


On the same day the Edmonton Oilers assigned a dozen players to the Oklahoma City Barons and the Western Hockey League, the team also geared up to welcome one of their most influential forwards back to the lineup.

The Oilers sent 11 players to the AHL's Barons and one to the WHL on Monday, and also announced right-winger Ales Hemsky will most likely be in the lineup for Edmonton's final home pre-season game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday at 7:00pm at Rexall Place.

Hemsky recorded 42 points in 47 games during the 2010-11 NHL season before being shut down for the remainder of the campaign with a shoulder injury. The 2011 all-star selection is entering his ninth season with the Oilers and has scored 114 goals and 281 assists for 395 points in 490 regular season games.

"I think the shoulder should be fine, should be healed enough to take the hits," Hemsky said following Monday's practice, which only included Oilers who didn't play against the Flames on Sunday in Calgary. "I think I should be fine. We'll find out tomorrow in our next game. It's been a long time (since I've played), and I'm anxious to start the season and get in some games."

Oilers head coach Tom Renney confirmed Hemsky will almost certainly be in the lineup against the Coyotes on Tuesday and said he encourages the veteran winger to work hard to create opportunities for himself to score.

"He's got great vision and all kinds of courage," Renney said. "The big thing for him is to keep moving around and put himself in a position to receive passes for one-timers on the power play and on the rush. I want to see him locked in, tactically, to how we want to play since this will be his first game."

Hemsky skated with veteran left-winger and former linemate Ryan Smyth, as well as centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, at practice on Monday, a good indication the trio will be playing together on Tuesday against Phoenix.

"He's a really smart player, really skilled, so it's pretty fun to play with him," Hemsky said of skating with the 2011 first-overall pick Nugent-Hopkins. "I think we'll be playing together tomorrow so it should be fun. I think I'm the shooter on that line now."

Renney reiterated the notion that Hemsky will need to become more of a trigger man on Tuesday and throughout the season.

"We encourage him to shoot and he seems like he's more willing to," the coach said. "It's not necessarily a hard shot, but boy does he have accuracy. The goalie's going to have to make a save when he shoots it, so obviously we encourage that."

Forwards Philippe Cornet, Tanner House, Chris VandeVelde, Milan Kytnar, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale and Tyler Pitlick, as well defencemen Ryan Lowery, Alex Plante and Kirill Tulupov, and goalie Olivier Roy were assigned to the Barons on Monday, while defenceman Martin Marincin was sent to the WHL's Prince George Cougars. With the 12 assignments, the Oilers are now carrying 35 players on their roster.
"We want our guys in a situation where they're going to get the most ice time," Renney said. "There are some guys in these assignments who are very capable in the call-up position. They just have to play and continue to define themselves."
Monday's assignments mean Nugent-Hopkins is one more step closer to cracking the Oilers' roster as an 18-year-old rookie. After Tuesday's game, the team plays their final two pre-season games on the road this weekend in Minnesota and Vancouver.
"This gives me another opportunity to go out there and play the way I've been playing," the Red Deer Rebels WHL product said. "Hopefully I can get into the last three games of the exhibition season and see how it goes after that."
So far during the pre-season, Nugent-Hopkins has played on forward lines with Smyth, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. He said he's been fortunate to line up with such talented teammates and is excited about the prospect of playing with Smyth and Hemsky on Tuesday.
"I've had some really good linemates the past few games, and if I get to play with those guys tomorrow I'd definitely be happy," he said. "It helps me adjust to the game faster, playing with these veteran guys. They've been here before and know what it takes. It's great to learn from them."

Defencemen Ryan Whitney and Colten Teubert gave updates on their respective injuries following Monday's skate, which saw Whitney (ankle) participate fully and Teubert (concussion) skate with the red non-contact jersey.

Whitney said he's unsure whether he'll be able to make it into an exhibition game, though he said he'd very much like to do so before embarking on regular season action.

"Today was a good step for me, but it's got to continue that way," said Whitney, who continues to take anti-inflammatory medication to help with his recovery. "It's on my mind because I'm still feeling it physically. A little pain I can obviously play with. There's a difference between playing hurt and playing injured, and right now I still happen to be injured. There's some patience being tested, but we're still taking it day by day."

For Teubert, Monday was his fourth skate since he suffered his mild concussion and broken nose during the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton. He expected to be cleared to play following a doctor's appointment Monday afternoon.

"I felt good today. I feel ready and I'm just hoping to get into a game," Teubert said. "It's going to be up to the coaches, so whatever decision they make I'm going to respect it. I just want to get into the lineup and get back to my game."

-- Ryan Frankson |


The Oilers took the ice for morning skate at Rexall Place prior to departing for Calgary where they will take on the Flames this evening at the Saddledome.

The team did not run complete lines, primarily because the players who are playing tonight but also played last night did not skate. That included Teemu Hartikainen, Theo Peckham and Cam Barker.

However, after the skate it was confirmed that the team would go with these lines tonight:

Paajarvi - Horcoff - Omark
Hamilton - VandeVelde - Eberle
Cornet - O'Marra - Hartikainen
Hordichuk - Brule - Petrell

Smid - Potter
Barker - Plante
Peckham - Fedun


For the second time this pre-season, Devan Dubnyk will be playing an entire game between the pipes for the Oilers.

"I want to continue working on things I want to do, do well, and do all year," said Dubnyk. "I'm sure they're going to come out pretty hard tonight, being at home. We were able to win last night and even though it's pre-season any game against Calgary is important for us to win."

Coming into camp, Dubnyk has had a great opportunity as he tries to seize the number-one goaltending position from the incumbent Khabibulin. 

"I feel on top of everything. Obviously, it is still early. There's some small things you find in different situations that you just have to kind of remind yourself what to do and what not to do. I've been pretty happy so far."

Renney talked about the importance of having both Dubnyk and Khabibulin ready to perform at a high level to start the season.

"Devan's got to keep it up. He needs to perform to the level he has of late. We're going to need two very good goaltenders in this league if we're going to have success."

The Oilers head coach also said that from here on out, the starting goaltender will be playing the entire game in the pre-season. However, he has not ruled out Yann Danis or Olivier Roy getting into some more action.

Taylor Fedun makes his return to the Oilers lineup after a contusion and subsequent minor concussion suffered in the Minnesota game last Tuesday kept him out of the lineup on Thursday or Saturday.

"Things have progressed really well," said Fedun of his recovery from injury. "I'm excited to get back into it tonight and pick up where I left off."

The fact that Fedun was able to at least get into a game should prove to be an advantage as he gets used to the level of play in professional hockey.

"I think it was good to get the feel of the flow of the game and kind of adjust to the speed. It seems like every day things are picking up, getting a little bit faster."

As a native Edmontonian, tonight will be Fedun's first taste - albeit pre-season - of the Battle of Alberta.

"It's a tremendous amount of excitement. You grow up and hear about that stuff all the time. Even if it's a pre-season game, to know that it's something the whole province gets excited about, I'm really looking forward to it."

Defenceman Colten Teubert skated for the third time since suffering a broken nose and concussion during the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton.

"I felt really good today," he said. "It was just a pre-game skate so it wasn't that difficult. But to get out there again and feel the wind when you skate fast was good".

With the nature of concussions, Teubert wasn't committing to any timelines but did say that he's getting close.

"I think it's just, we're going to read and react if I feel symptoms," Teubert began. "I have a concussion test on Monday and hopefully if all feels good I'll be ready coming up this week here."

-- Marc Ciampa, 


Second period goals by Shawn Horcoff, Linus Omark and Jordan Eberle put the Oilers ahead, but 30 saves by Devan Dubnyk helped propel the Edmonton Oilers to a 3-0 shutout victory over the rival Calgary Flames Sunday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.




Head Coach Tom Renney doesn’t put too much stock into wins and losses in the pre-season, but when you’re going head-to-head with the Calgary Flames, his opinion can sway.

“I like what winning teaches you, and feeling connected to success,” he said at Saturday’s morning skate.

“More than anything, we’re looking for execution.”

And that’s exactly what the pre-season entails. ‘Opportunity’ is this year’s mantra, and something the Oilers’ bench boss will provide to young players eager to make an impression.

For this evening’s contest vs. Calgary, the Oilers assembled new lines in preparation for a 6pm puck-drop in the Battle of Alberta.


Taylor Hall is slated to skate with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Teemu Hartikainen. With the 2011 No. 1 overall pick centering the team’s top line, the sophomores are ready to step up.

“I'm excited to play with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins,” Hartikainen said. “It's a good opportunity to show my skill and help them as well. It should be good.

“I need to work the corners and help make some room; create turnovers and make sure I keep my head up to pass. That's my game. I don’t want to do anything that I normally wouldn’t do. I’ll hit guys, be hard on the puck and drive to the net.”

On Nugent-Hopkins’ other wing, Hall is thrilled with the new mixture.

“It's going to be a lot of fun for me,” he said. “I've never really had a chance to play with him yet; today's morning skate was the first time. For a player like me to play with an elite puck-mover and a guy that has that kind of hockey mind is very exciting.”

With speed, skill, toughness and strong, two-way play, Renney is equally as excited to see what his new top line is able to choreograph.

“We want to see if there's some synergy there, and maybe a glimpse into the future – we won't get too far ahead of ourselves. As far as I'm concerned, it's another opportunity to evaluate another combination of people.”


While Hall is sure to be on the opening night roster, Hartikainen’s future is unclear. The 21-year-old had an impressive debut last season, scoring three goals and two assists in 12 NHL games.

This season, he’s wired to make ends meet right away.

“I've been pretty happy with my camp so far,” Hartikainen explained. “I had a good game in Saskatoon, so I know I can [make the team]. I need to keep scoring goals. The coaches haven't said anything negative about me, so we'll see what happens over the next two or three games.

“I think I've been doing well, but there are still some things that I need to do to develop my game. We're all trying to get better here.”

Speaking of opportunity, 27-year-old forward Ryan Keller has been presented with another chance to shine. He’ll skate on a line with Sam Gagner and Ryan Jones vs. Calgary, hoping to carry over his early pre-season success into the Battle of Alberta.

“It's a great opportunity,” he said. “You've got to go out there and not try to do too much; play within your limits and play with energy.

“I’m going to get in on the forecheck and work [Calgary’s] ‘D’ down low. Sam (Gagner) and Ryan (Jones) are two proven players that know how to play in this league. Any way I can complement them on a line, I'll be looking to do that. We’re going to be a good trio.”

Keller signed a one-year deal with the Oilers back on Jul. 4. He spent 2010-11 with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators, collecting 32 goals and 51 points. He’s hoping to earn a more regular NHL role in Edmonton.

Showing what he’s got in a heated division rivalry could help propel him there.

“I think in many ways the pre-season brings out the best in you. For players that are battling for work, getting tossed into the Battle of Alberta is great. It’s a tough ball game, but I’m expected a real intense battle tonight.”

-- Ryan Dittrick,


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall  choreographed an electric go-ahead goal with only 1:17 remaining, propelling the Edmonton Oilers to a well-earned 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Saturday night at Rexall Place.


Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick

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