| FIRST STOP IN 2010: SAN JOSE |
The Oilers were up bright and early New Year's Day and cleared tight security in Calgary before boarding the charter to San Jose.
Because Devan Dubnyk left for a stint with the AHL's Springfield Falcons earlier in the morning, Bryan Pitton joined the NHL team on the ice when they arrived at HP Pavilion. Pitton had a short commute: the Oilers' ECHL affiliate, the Stockton Thunder, are located just over an hour northwest of San Jose.
"Right away, I looked at the schedule and I knew that they were playing in San Jose Saturday night ... so I was pretty excited to finally get a game in," Pitton said. "Last time (during first call-up in mid-December) I only got a practice. I was hoping to get a game, but it will be pretty cool to sit on the bench this time."
In 17 games with the Thunder this season, Pitton has posted a 7-8-1 record and .912 SV%. The club is three games below .500 with a 13-16-2 record.
"It seems like we're the kind of team that wins four in a row and loses four in a row," the goalie explained. "We really haven't found our identity yet, but for me and [fellow Thunder goalie Andrew Perugini] we've both been doing pretty well and I'm just happy I can get up here for a little bit."
Pitton was the last man off the ice Friday afternoon and looks forward to honing his skills against NHL shooters while he's with the Oilers.
"If you give these guys the littlest bit in net, they're going to pick it," Pitton said after practice. "Everyone can shoot the puck real hard once you get to professional, but these guys, they can put the puck where they want it, so if I'm not square, if I'm not centred, they can make me look pretty bad. But knowing the chances that I might get up here again, I'm just going to keep working hard down in Stockton and hopefully get as many games as I can because you'd rather play than practice."
TIME TO STEP IT UP
Although Pitton is pleased with his current situation, the same cannot be said for the rest of the Oilers. The club has won only one game in the past nine and sits at the bottom of the Western Conference. Saturday night's battle vs. the Sharks will test the team's ability to keep their New Year's resolutions and step up their play.
"We're fighting a bit to find our game and to find a way out of this little hole we've dug ourselves," Sheldon Souray said after practice. "We're looking for answers, and we're coming to the rink and working hard every day and we're trying to keep it positive, but it's definitely frustrating."
Head Coach Pat Quinn wants his club to play smarter and showcase some of the resilience they showed the last time they faced the Sharks on November 27, when the Oil lost a thrilling match in a shootout. (Read the game recap)
"Our game against them was a really good game the last time we played," Quinn recalled. "We executed well that night -- it shows we're capable of doing it, but we need to do it longer and harder. And when you're facing this kind of opposition, with the number of really top players that they have, that gets people's attention.
"I don't care who we play, whether it's Calgary, a very good team, or whether it's this team that we're going to face tomorrow, the tops in our conference ... You have to execute, and you have to execute with some smarts, and we're not smart."
According to Souray, the time for reflection is over.
"I think our theme right now is we're into a new year and we're just going to start fresh and look at it like it's a new season for us. There's no sense in looking behind because you're going to be pretty frustrated with what you see that we've accomplished so far."
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com