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by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


Edmonton, AB - The Oilers practiced at Rexall Place on Monday prior to packing up and heading out to Calgary for tomorrow's Battle of Alberta. The practice was comprised of a lot of one-on-one drills as the coaches tried to up the team's battle level on the heels of two disappointing losses at home to Colorado and Vancouver.

Sam Gagner was absent from practice, taking a maintenance day. In his place, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- still wearing a non-contact jersey -- centred Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

"It's feeling a lot better. It's definitely making progress," Nugent-Hopkins said after practice.

Nugent-Hopkins took part in the one-on-one drills and looked good, but threw out a word of caution. 

"It's hard to tell without any real battles out there. The next couple of days will be a good test," he said, hinting the red jersey might come off soon.

It's been difficult for the rookie to watch the games, particularly with the team coming up empty on the recent home stand.

"The past couple of games have been tough ones for us but before that we ramped up the intensity and were looking pretty good out there," he added.


Oilers GM Steve Tambellini addressed the media after practice to talk about the status of head coach Tom Renney, who missed the team's past two games behind the bench.

"He sat with me for close to a period during last night's game just to get that intensity, that feeling again. The doctors have recommended that he probably will miss the next couple of games," Tambellini said, hinting that Renney's involvement may start to get ramped up as soon as Thursday's game against the Flyers. 

"He could be involved in some capacity with us (Thursday) but I think it's best at this point he get more comfortable with the intensity of coaching again."

Tambellini did add that Renney has been making strides.

"He's making some steps. I know it's driving him crazy not to be part of the day-to-day preparation as most coaches do but I think it's best for him to take some time."

Tambellini confirmed that Renney's injury is a concussion as a result of getting hit in the head with the puck during the morning skate in Toronto two weeks ago.

"This is a result of an unfortunate hit in Toronto. People know the type of preparation and work ethic (he has). We know this is very hard on him but it's the right thing, and he knows it's the right thing to take a little bit more time off."

Devan Dubnyk said the team misses their head coach but understands why he's out.

"You could see he was having a bit of a tough time, sometimes. A couple of days he was good but a couple days you could tell. He was trying to not let us see it, he's that kind of guy. He was trying to hide it from us. There's only so much you can do to hide it, he wasn't feeling great," Dubnyk began.

"It's too bad. It was an unfortunate incident. He's a leader for us in here. We know he'd be here if he could."


Another injury that has only now been added to the Oilers' list is Nikolai Khabibulin, who will be out 7 to 10 days with an injured groin. Khabibulin tweaked his groin during the first period of last night's game.

"It's always unfortunate when there's an injury. You never want someone to get injured," said Dubnyk.

The Oilers called up Yann Danis this morning from Oklahoma City of the AHL but it's expected Dubnyk will carry the bulk of the workload. 

"It's my opportunity to play some games in a row and get us going here on a bit of a roll. It's exciting for me," he continued.

Dubnyk said this upcoming stretch of games is important not only for him but for the team as well as they continue to grow as a team.

"We fully plan on being in a playoff race next year at this time of year. We need to learn how to be in that high gear. Every single game's important and everybody cranks it up. It's the perfect opportunity for us to go up against teams that are in the race. It's a good chance for us to play games in the same way so when we're in that situation we know how to do it."


With four points -- two goals -- in five games since his most-recent call-up from Oklahoma City, Magnus Paajarvi is playing his best hockey of the season.

"I've felt great the last couple of games. I feel like I've been playing a lot better since I came back up - since the Detroit game," said Paajarvi. "Plus I've been playing with Hemmer. We've been mixed up with a couple of centremen but I feel good out there. I feel better mentally for sure."

Paajarvi had only four points all season -- all assists -- in 33 games prior to his recent hot stretch.

"I don't think I'm a whole lot better player after three or four weeks. The biggest thing for me is mentally and confidence-wise. Just going down there has made me feel better and helped my confidence."  

-- Marc Ciampa,


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