| OILERS vs SENATORS: |
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers held an optional morning skate Tuesday, with approximately 14 players taking to the Rexall Place ice.
At one end of the ice was goalie Jeff Deslauriers, who will play his third consecutive game tonight and assist his club in their quest for a three-game winning streak.
"I think if you go through our four lines, all the four lines have contributed, there's no question, if not playing hard defensively then cashing in a goal. But we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the play of JD, that's for sure," Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger said after practice.
"These past couple of games have been good," Head Coach Pat Quinn added. "As I say to these young men, it may look pretty bleak as far as the end of the road because it's a playoff position you want and then you want results there too. That's not a possibility, so they have to really concentrate on their individual development now to continue to become better players, both on the physical side but more importantly in areas that will help them be a complete player."
PECKHAM MAKES IMPACT
One of the players who has improved significantly this season is defenceman Theo Peckham. After a disappointing initial call-up in late October, the 22-year-old rookie has been productive and powerful in the past four games with the Oilers and even earned third star for his efforts Friday, March 5 vs. Minnesota.
"I know when I came up earlier in the season I didn't really show the new coaching staff what I could do -- I was pretty shaky out there," Peckham said. "So coming up for the second time, I knew that it's kind of all or nothing, this is kind of like my last crack at it. I think so far I've kind of taken advantage of it."
The road back to Edmonton has been a bumpy one, he explained.
"I hurt my ankle in the summer. I missed training camp, I missed the first few games of the season in the American League, and when I came back I think I played 20 games, and the first 10 of those were pretty bad with my ankle. And as soon as I started to get my feet under me, I had a concussion so I missed seven weeks. And with concussions it's kind of tough because you can't work out, you can't do anything so your conditioning goes out the door.
"So I came back, and four games later I hurt my knee and I missed a couple weeks with that. I came back in early February from that and I guess now I'm here."
Quinn is pleased with the improvements he's seen.
"He's a good athlete but nothing good happened for him in that four-game or five-game stretch he was here -- not very many positive things," the head coach commented. "He's made way less mistakes in his couple of games that he's played, and hopefully that continues. I like what I see right now."
In addition to covering tonight's game, local media were eager to interview goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin in the Oilers locker room Tuesday. It was his first media availability since undergoing spinal surgery in mid-January.
Khabibulin explained that the injury arose suddenly in mid-November and failed to improve on its own.
"The night before I felt great and everything and was pretty excited about the game (vs. Chicago) here, and then in the morning I was walking to the rink from my car and I just started feeling kind of funny. I went out, skated, and it kind of started progressing a little bit. And the next day it got worse and it never got better, really."
"Even after it happened, I thought it wouldn't be too big a deal," he added. "Obviously I didn't think it would take two months and then I would go for surgery. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I thought maybe it would be a week or so, but it just never got better."
Khabibulin said the season has been "disappointing" and is looking forward to returning to the Oilers once he's made a full recovery.
"[The doctor] said that if I rehab correctly, properly there shouldn't be any problems down the road, so I'm pretty optimistic about it and trying to do everything that I've been told to do," he said. "Obviously it's not fun to rehab most of the time. Hockey's what I love to do and that was disappointing, especially with the team being in last place, it's never fun."
SENATORS 4 - OILERS 1
With 24 saves in the first two periods, Oilers goalie Jeff Deslauriers had his club on even terms heading into the final frame. But four Edmonton penalties helped Ottawa add 14 shots and three goals in the third, propelling the visitors to a 4-1 win at Rexall Place Tuesday night.
Fernando Pisani started the scoring with his third goal of the season early in the second period, while Deslauriers finished with 35 saves and third star.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer