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The Team Today: Mini-Camp Day 1

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers' four-day gap between games was originally scheduled for a team-building/sponsorship golf trip to California, but with only one win in their last 12 games, the club went back to basics Friday afternoon in the first of two intense days of "mini-camp."

After a lengthy video session, the team took to the ice at 12:30 and skated for an hour, focusing on one-on-one and two-on-one battles. Zambonis then resurfaced the ice, and the players reported back for round two which concluded in a bag skate.

In the locker room at the end of the day, it was clear that both players and coaches are focused on the task at hand: turning things around quickly to salvage the season.

"We started from scratch: we had a workout, we had plenty of video today to go over the things that we've been not doing so well that has made us unsuccessful during this stretch," Tom Gilbert said. "What we get from this is hopefully get a clean slate and just review the stuff that's been hurting us these past few games."

"I don't think anybody would be feeling too good if we were down south enjoying ourselves right now when other teams are getting better," fellow defenceman Sheldon Souray added. "We're where we're at and we need to be getting better, so we'll use these days to our advantage. We'll keep a good attitude and keep it light these two days, and come Sunday, Monday, Tuesday it's back to work."

The day was long and exhausting, but Souray emphasized that the team needs to keep its spirits up.

"The bottom line is coming here to work and learn every day, but that doesn't mean we can't still have fun," he said. "We have a few days in between games to stay loose and we can still do some team bonding here at home and just make the best of it."


Head Coach Pat Quinn seemed pleased with what he saw from his troops Friday.

"They worked hard. There's lots about this team that I can't complain about -- their work habits seem pretty good, in general on practice days our spirits seem fine, it's just during hockey games when we seem to get down on ourselves badly and make those horrendous, individual sort of mistakes that change the results from what you plan on."

This weekend's mission is to "
find out why it's happening" and correct it, and the coaches plan on doing that with a lot of practice.

"I've always believe in practice. When you rehearse for success then you've got a chance for succes," Quinn said.


Call-up goalie Bryan Pitton keeps his eye on the puck during Friday's mini-camp at Rexall Place. (Photo by Steve Taylor |
One man who is learning a lot about Oilers practices is goalie Bryan Pitton. The Oilers opted to send Devan Dubnyk back to Springfield this weekend so he could get a few games in with the Falcons, and as a result, the club recalled Pitton from the ECHL's Stockton Thunder for the third time this season.

"I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable, but I've still got the jitters whenever I show up to the rink and when I'm on the ice," the young goalie said. "It's just excitement. You waited your whole life to be here and now that you're finally here it's a dream come true. It's nice practicing and sitting on the bench but I think the dream will come true once I actually get into a game. I'm not sure if that's going to happen but I got to bed every night and pray that it does."

The closest PItton has come to playing in the NHL was January 2 in San Jose, when he backed up Jeff Deslauriers. The experience was "incredible," he says, especially since some fans from Stockton made the drive to watch him in warm-up.

"Warm-up was probably the neatest part, being out there with all the guys and taking shots from them," Pitton remembers. "It was neat to know I had some support in the stands and I had some back at home as well."

Pitton isn't sure how long he'll be in Edmonton, but he's hoping to be able to dress for Tuesday's game vs. Nashville.

"It would be nice to get a game in, especially a home game on Tuesday, it would be nice to stick around for that but I'm not quite sure what's going on yet," he added.
"But so far it's been fun, I've been enjoying the ride, and hopefully it goes a bit longer than the last few times."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers stuck to the same line combinations Thursday morning, with Dustin Penner, Shawn Horcoff & Robert Nilsson skating on the top line, and recent returnee Fernando Pisani skating with Ryan Stone and Sam Gagner.

Lubomir Visnovsky, who missed two games due to an ankle injury, rotated into the morning's drills, but Head Coach Pat Quinn later said that he will not play in the game. On the other hand, fellow defenceman Steve Staios is recovered from the knee injury he suffered Tuesday night vs. Phoenix.

"Looks like Steve's okay but I don't think Visnovsky's quite up to snuff today, although he skated alright," Quinn said.

With Visnovsky nearing return, the Oilers are as healthy as they have been all season. But without star forward
Ales Hemsky and top goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, the club continues to be challenged at both ends of the ice.

"To have that healthy lineup is something we haven't had all year long, and we won't as long as we've lost Hemsky and we're still waiting on Khabibulin's information," Quinn said. "The other two, (Marc) Pouliot and (Mike) Comrie, are still quite a ways away, although Pouliot might get to practice with us in the next day or so."

Pouliot has missed the entire season so far due to a sports hernia, while Comrie has been battling mono since November 18.

Dubnyk gets the start

After starting seven consecutive games, goalie
Jeff Deslauriers will get a break tonight when Devan Dubnyk gets the start in net. In his first career NHL start December 21 vs. St Louis, Dubnyk allowed seven goals on 26 shots, a game he says didn't go "how I'd imagined it."

"We made him nervous too," Quinn admitted. "That night we didn't start well -- it was probably our worst outing. We didn't even do what we wanted to accomlish: we wanted to give Dubnyk a game and Deslauriers a rest, and I'm sure Deslauriers was just sitting on the bench thinking 'Oh no, I've gotta go back in there.'

"But we're comfortable and ready to go. Dubnyk looks to be by those first game jitters and hopefully we start better in front of him."

"That game's done. It's good to get the first one out of the way," Dubnyk added "I feel fine and I'm excited to get another chance."


Much like in Tuesday's game vs. Phoenix, the Oilers battled back twice to tie the Blue Jackets Thursday night, but when the visitors took a two-goal lead, the home team ran out of time. Two late powerplays and an empty net couldn't push the game into sudden death, and the Oilers finished 60 minutes with a 4-2 loss.

Fernando Pisani and Sam Gagner scored Edmonton's two goals, while Devan Dubnyk stopped 25 shots in his second career NHL start.
Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers took to the Rexall Place ice Wednesday at noon and skated for about an hour. Notable absentees were Steve Staios, Ryan Stone and Jean-Francois Jacques.

"[Staios] got wacked last night and today he went to be medically checked," Head Coach Pat Quinn told the media after practice. "Everything seems to be alright, other than he's sore."

With Staios questionable for Thursday's game vs. the Blue Jackets, Quinn was asked about the Oilers defensive contingent.

"We'll be down to five if Steve can't go, unless Lubomir (Visnovsky) is ready. Apparently he skated well this morning," Quinn said.

According to the coach, Stone suffered a knee injury last night and is taking a "'let's be cautious here' day." As for Jacques, it was a sore wrist that kept him off the ice.

"He's been struggling with a bad wrist, and yesterday they decided that rest would be important," Quinn explained. "That's not why we didn't dress him yesterday, because I didn't learn about it until I came to the rink last night, but apparently he's been having trouble with his wrist and so today was a day that they wanted to keep him right off."

Near the end of practice, Robert Nilsson crumbled to the ice but after a few moments, headed to the bench under his own power with one eye closed.

"Nilsson got poked in the eye," Quinn said. "It doesn't look to be anything of a problem, but somehow a stick went up under his visor in that little drill."


Jordan Eberle's final goal in the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships vs. Team USA made him Canada's all-time leading scorer in the annual tournament.
With the World Junior Hockey Championships still fresh in everyone's mind, tournament star and Oilers prospect Jordan Eberle dominated the first half of Quinn's press conference. The coach confirmed that the club cannot call Eberle up to the Oilers until his season with the WHL's Regina Pats is complete.

When asked about the decision to send Eberle back to Junior at the beginning of the season rather than keep him with the Oilers, Quinn said that he "doesn't know what the right answer is."

"He had a pretty decent camp here, and so the decision really was do we keep him in this spot and put him at risk for some development trouble during a potentially troubled time. We were trying to think of it in his best interest, what would be best for him.

"I guess you'll never know that, but his development that has continued his spectacular goal scoring in clutch situations is tremendous as far as Canadians teams are concerned. And he's been a top scorer on his junior team, on a pretty good team," Quinn continued.

"I think that team has a chance, Memorial Cup wise, which would be great learning steps for that young man. He's shown certainly a terrific mind for playing the game, and while you might worry about size and that sort of thing, he hasn't shown a disinterest in going in the areas that you get results in.

"We hope we made the good decision with Jordan -- he's a terrific player and hopefully he'll be a big part of our future."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers re-introduced a familiar face to the line-up at Tuesday's morning skate. After the Dustin Penner/Shawn Horcoff/Robert Nilsson line and the Patrick O'Sullivan/Ryan Potulny/Gilbert Brule line skated, Fernando Pisani appeared on the team's third line alongside Ryan Stone and Sam Gagner.

Tonight's game will mark Pisani's first contest since November 15, when his ulcerative colitis flared up and took him out of the line-up. The Oilers forward is happy to be back.

"I feel really good out there and I'm just looking forward to getting  back in the game situation," Pisani said after the skate. "I've been working hard the last two-and-a-half, three weeks just getting my strength back up, and been practicing a lot now, so I feel confident enough to play."

Fernando in, J-F out

With Pisani's return,
Jean-Francois Jacques will be the odd-man-out tonight vs. Phoenix. When asked about the decision, Head Coach Pat Quinn said it was a combination of factors.

"I love the way he tries, but I think he's been trying to force some things, turnovers up the boards and things of  that nature. But I could have picked some guys. He's just a young guy, got no points in the last little while.

"It certainly isn't because I'm disappointed in him," Quinn explained. "He won't be totally left aside at all."

Injury Updates

Nikolai Khabibulin: According to Quinn, the Oilers goalie is nearing the end of an eight-week window of assessment. If the player is not on the road to recovery at that point, surgery may be an option.

"Obviously, he's the athlete here and he's got decisions to make about what the next steps are. And one of the next steps is surgery."

Lubomir Visnovsky: On the topic of the Oilers defenceman, who injured his ankle New Year's Eve in Calgary, Quinn said it's day-to-day.

"It's not one of those high ankles, it is a sore ankle. And I didn't have an update today but I know he wasn't able to put a shoe on to practice, so I'm sure it's going to be a few days yet."


The Oilers found themselves down two goals twice, but quick comebacks paid off on both occasions and eventually resulted in overtime. But a penalty to recent returnee Fernando Pisani put the home team on the penalty kill early in sudden death and the visitors capitalized, with Shane Doan firing home the game-winner.

Gilbert Brule, Patrick O'Sullivan, Denis Grebeshkov & Dustin Penner scored for Edmonton, while goalie Jeff Deslauriers stopped 25 shots in the overtime loss.
Author: Jen Sharpe |
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