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THE TEAM TODAY: Monday

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
  MONDAY, JANUARY 9


SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS

St. Louis, MO - The Oilers' monster road trip continues with a stop in St. Louis.

The team immediately departed Buffalo following Tuesday night's 4-3 loss and arrived in The Gateway City late last night. On the heels of back-to-back outings, the Oilers elected to skip their schedule on-ice session in favour of an off-ice workout at the team's hotel.

As has been a common refrain for the team over the past few weeks, Oilers head coach Tom Renney felt the the team deserved more than the zero points in the standings they received last night.

"I thought we played well. If there ever is such a thing as a bitter fate that was the case last night. Coming off a strong performance against Chicago, you never know what to expect from your team the next night," Renney began.

"Certainly, it speaks to our character and our ability to go after wins and play anybody. We have to continue to embrace that if we're going to try and get back into this playoff race."

TOUGH NIGHT FOR CALL-UPS

Recent call-ups Josh Green and Teemu Hartikainen had a tough go of it on Tuesday. Green was a -4 and Hartikainen was a -3.

"You can look at numbers and identify with a tough night," said Renney. "But they were part of a group of guys that really went after a hockey game last night and really went after two points."

For Hartikainen, it was his fourth game in four nights in four different cities. He suited up for the Barons in Oklahoma City on New Year's Eve against San Antonio then travelled to Houston the following night before joining the Oilers for their games in Chicago and Buffalo.

"You can't help but think the guy's tired," Renney said of Hartikainen. "But at the same time, you try to give him minutes and an opportunity to play -- and impact our game with his physical presence. Those are tools that you have in your tool box. You use those."

"You've got to find your way when you play a lot. Sometimes take it easy in some places," said Hartikainen, pointing you that he's still trying to make the most of the opportunity despite difficult circumstances.

"It means a second chance for me. I could be playing better but, like I said, I played a few games in Oklahoma and a lot of minutes in those games. I'm going to get my rest today then get my legs going. You're going to see a whole different Teemu Hartikainen (tomorrow)."

Green played down the middle with Horcoff and Hartikainen. The Oilers captain being on the left side hinted to some discomfort as Renney noted he was physically unable to take draws last night. He did take one, winning against Paul Gaustad.

However, Green did acquit himself well, going 63% in the dot.

"He did a great job on the dot and certainly his presence up the middle helped us," said Renney.

WORLD JUNIOR MEMORIES

Both Renney and Jordan Eberle have some great memories from their time spent in the World Junior Hockey Championship and on the heels of last night's thrilling 6-5 Canadian semifinal loss to the Russians, they did some reflecting.

Renney was coach of the Canadian side in both 1992 and 1999 -- coming up with the Silver Medal in the '99 Winnipeg tournament.

"(1999) in Winnipeg. A great hockey city. It was a great tournament for us. It was one of those times you don't get the pick of the litter -- we had seven or eight eligible players not with us as Canada has every year," said Renney.

"We found a way to build a tournament and accept that responsibility of being Canada's team for a couple of weeks. Roberto (Luongo) was the cornerstone with a real good back-end and good forwards that have done some things in the National Hockey League as well."

The Canadian team that year lost out to Russia in overtime of the Gold Medal Game. By contrast, in 1992, Canada finished in 6th place.

"It's always a great experience and Germany (in 1992) was the 180 to that. It was a real important experience for Hockey Canada. I think it helped everyone to sharpen their pencil after that."

Eberle's two tournaments were also very different, winning Gold in 2009 thanks in large part to his last-second heroics against the Russians.

"When we played the Russians, we would score then they would come back with another one. They buried one with about four minutes to go to take the lead and we battled back. The rest is history," said Eberle. "We had a great tournament. We didn't play our best hockey until the final. Taking the Russians to overtime was the turning point then we buried Sweden (in the Gold Medal Game)."

Canada tried to come back once again in 2010 against the Americans -- both Eberle and Taylor Hall were on that team -- but they were just short, losing in overtime of the Gold Medal Game.

"That was a crazy game. The Americans were a fast team. We found a way to tie it and overtime four-on-four is tough. You give up an odd-man rush like we did and they come in and score."

Canada has gone without Gold for three years now. A fact that doesn't surprise Eberle, given the nature of the tournament.

"It's not an easy tournament, it's like the Super Bowl," Eberle remarked. "You get one game and if you lose, you're done. Especially when you do it on your home soil, it's tougher."

RNH UPDATE

At the end of his availability, Renney talked briefly about the status of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

"I'm not sure what we're going to do with him. I have to check with (trainer) T.D. (Forss) here. He's feeling better but I don't see him playing on the rest of this trip."

-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
  SATURDAY, JANUARY 7

STARS 4 - OILERS 1

GAME ESSENTIALS
 GAME DAY
 POST-GAME VIDEO
 POST-GAME AUDIO
 THREE STARS
1. Jamie Benn, DAL
2. Mike Ribeiro, DAL
3. Taylor Hall, EDM
 UPDATE
With the loss, the Oilers fall to 16-22-3 on the season.
 WHAT'S NEXT
The Oilers return home where they will face the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. The game can be seen on TSN and has a special start time of 7:00 p.m. MST.
The Oilers scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead, but St. Louis responded with three of their own in the final frame to defeat Edmonton 4-3 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday night.

Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves in the loss, while Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ben Eager scored the goals.

AT FRIDAY'S PRACTICE

With a matinee game on Saturday afternoon (1:00 p.m. local time start, noon in Edmonton), the Oilers practiced at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney were both not on the ice for the team with each player participating in off-ice workouts.

Otherwise, it was business as usual with the same line combinations as the St. Louis game.

STILL NO CIGAR

The theme for the Oilers on this trip has been "close, but no cigar" in so many ways. The club has deserved a better fate in at least four of the five losses on this trip through six games. Not only have they come up short on the scoresheet, the team has hit upwards of 10 posts on this trip including four last night alone.

"The cake's no good without the frosting. We need to win," Renney flat-out stated following practice.

"I think the internal pressure is good, the internal expectations are good. Those are the most important. That said, we have to do everything we possibly can to know that we left it on the ice," the coach continued.

"There's nohting worse than coming into your dressing room thinking you had more to give, you could have done better," Renney said, adding that hasn't been the case for his squad for most of this trip. 

"On this trip, with the exception of a game -- and that includes Vancouver -- we've played hard. We haven't had the results and the last thing we want to do is feel self pity. Nobody else cares whether you're winning or not so we have to."

Winger Ryan Jones concurred with his head coach.

"we have to continue to play with the same intensity that we have. At the same time, we have to tighten up with our execution. If we do that, we'll see points on our side instead of the opponent's," he began, adding that the team needs to play a more complete 60-minute effort.

"We're finding out what 50 minutes of good hockey will get you -- usually a loss," Jones remarked.

Jones added that you need to come to the rink with a lunch bucket mentaility and be prepared to work hard because the team staring at you across the rink in all likelihood will do just that.

"There's teams all around this league that know that's what it takes," he said. "If we continue to play like that and tighten up in a few areas -- I think discipline is one area that we need to work on -- we'll win more hockey games."

Ladislav Smid talked about how close this team can get at times and how the results need to start showing up on the scoresheet and in the standings.

"This is a new group of guys. We're a young team. Lots of guys who came here at the start of this season they didn't experience what happened the previous two years and we don't want them to experience it," said Smid.

"We are not a 30th place team in the NHL. I think this team can beat anybody in the League. We just have to get back on track and start winning some games."

ALL-STAR EBERLE?

Winger Jordan Eberle has made a strong case for himself to be invited to the NHL's annual event in Ottawa later this month.

With 43 points, ranking 7th in the entire NHL, and 17 goals -- ranking 16th -- Eberle has proven that he deserves to be in the League's elite class.

"It would be an honour but right now I'm focused on the team," said Eberle today. "I'm not too worried about the All-Star Game but it would be nice."

The starters were announced yesterday and the remaining roster should be announced sometime next week. Renney agreed that Eberle should go.

"I haven't even thought of it but now that you brought it up I think he should have a chance at the very least," he said. "These are great young players that the Oilers have. We have excellent scouting and they should get recognition from the League."

BLUELINE INJURY UPDATES

The Oilers have certainly missed the presence on the blueline of Ryan Whitney -- and, more recently, Tom Gilbert -- through the latter portion of the road trip.

After visiting the doctor who performed his surgery in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ryan Whitney rejoined the team in Dallas. He did not skate and Renney did not seem to think he was that much closer to finally playing.

"The biggest thing for him is strength. Ryan is a very important player for us," said Renney, adding that the team needs to get him back on the ice and skating sooner rather than later.

"We're taking our time with him," he said. "We'll prod and push but listen to the player."

As for Gilbert, Renney said that his knee is much better but he also suffered an ankle injury in his tumble into the boards at the hands of Dan Carillo.

"The ankle has been slower to respond," Renney said.

-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
  THURSDAY, JANUARY 5

BLUES 4 - OILERS 3

GAME ESSENTIALS
GAME DAY
 POST-GAME VIDEO
 POST-GAME AUDIO
 THREE STARS
1. Alex Pietrangelo, STL
2. Carlo Colaiacovo, STL
 UPDATE
With the loss, the Oilers record falls to 16-21-3 on the season.
 WHAT'S NEXT
The Oilers wrap up their seven-game road trip on Saturday afternoon in Dallas. Game time is noon MST and it can be seen on Sportsnet West.
The Oilers scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead, but St. Louis responded with three of their own in the final frame to defeat Edmonton 4-3 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday night.

Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves in the loss, while Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ben Eager scored the goals.

AT THE MORNING SKATE

St. Louis, MO - The Edmonton Oilers play game six of their seven-game marathon trip tonight in St. Louis, looking for their second victory. The team has played well for the most part -- particularly Tuesday night in Buffalo -- but have had trouble with their finish and ultimately getting the two points.

Oilers head coach Tom Renney knows that the team has a tough task ahead of them tonight with a St. Louis Blues squad that has been one of the League's best since head coach Ken Hitchcock took over.

"We've got to, as best we can, deliver our puck to the forwards quickly and allow our attack game at that point on go to the other end of the rink," said Renney. "Our D also need to support quickly from behind -- in other words, gap up offensively -- so we show a numerical advantage because Hitch's (Blues head coach Ken Hithcock's) team is going to come after us. They're going to try and forecheck hard."

Devan Dubnyk gets the call in goal tonight.

INJURY UPDATES

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has returned to Edmonton, while Tom Gilbert is out once again tonight after taking the morning skate briefly. The Oilers announced today that Nugent-Hopkins will be out of the lineup for the next three to four weeks with a left shoulder injury.

Renney remarked that being without the team's number two leading scorer means everybody has to contribute that much more.

"I think everybody up front has to step up. It's one of those situations where we have a balanced looking lineup up there at least. And there's an opportunity to score, I think, on every line," he began. "We really need to try and create things with speed, tempo and going to the net."

As for Gilbert, he's probably out at least a little longer than Renney initially expected but there's no definitive timeline for his recovery at this point.

"I don't know what I should tell you there. It didn't go as well as we were hoping this morning. I have limited information but it didn't go as well as I was hoping it would go."

GREEN DAY

Josh Green played his first game with the Oilers this season after being called up from Oklahoma City on Tuesday morning for the date in Buffalo. It certainly didn't go as well as he had hoped, going minus-four although he did had some outstanding scoring chances -- particularly in the third period when the game was tied 2-2.

"He was certainly better than dash-four as far as I was concerned," said Renney of Green. "He's a big, strong centreman, he can play any one of the forward positions, he understands the game well, has good hockey IQ and great experience in the game."

Renney added that the ability to call up a player like Green with his experience and poise under pressure is a bonus for the club.

"This is a guy who can really help us. The big thing for him is to leave that game where it belongs and start dealing with the St. Louis Blues."

HORCOFF BACK IN THE DOT

After being knocked around by Jamal Mayers on Monday in Chicago, Shawn Horcoff was feeling some discomfort in his shoulder and was unable to take any draws Tuesday in Buffalo. Horcoff played on the left side and the team missed him on the dot.

However, Renney said that the day off yesterday has done wonders for Horcoff and he's likely to see some time back in the middle tonight.

"He feels much stronger now and more secure in how his body feels. He took draws and felt real good there without any issues whatsoever," stated the head coach, pointing out the importance of a healthy captain. 

"We need Horcoff in the face-off circle. We need him playing at 100% in order to help our hockey club."

BREAK OUT THE BLENDER

Renney added that there's a chance that Horcoff could at least see some time between Ryan Smyth and Jordan Eberle tonight.

"That's certainly a possibility. I may try to keep Hitch off balance a little bit by moving some people around throughout the course of the hockey game. How we start may not be quite how we finish is probably the best way to put it."

The team is also likely to go back with the Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky line. Gagner has been outstanding of late with 16 points in his last 18 games. With the loss of Nugent-Hopkins he will be counted on that much more.

"We've got to continue to push ahead. If you look at how the last game went, we had a goal called back and different things that went on that could have changed the outcome. Our effort and execution was there. No matter who's out of the line-up it's an opportunity for guys to step up and we'll do that tonight."

Anton Lander will likely start on the fourth line wing with Green and Teemu Hartikainen and look for Ryan Jones, Eric Belanger and Ben Eager to play as a unit. 

-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com



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