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The Team Today: News from Nashville

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers started what is perhaps the busiest week of the NHL season with their busiest day of recent memory.

With players and staff midway through a four-hour flight from Edmonton to Nashville, the organization made its first announcement of the day: calling up defencemen Taylor Chorney and Theo Peckham as well as goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Springfield Falcons. The club also reassigned goalie Bryan Pitton to Springfield.

"Anytime you get called up you're pretty excited," Peckham said from Nashville. "It almost goes back to the first time -- you start getting those butterflies and the flight over is pretty nerve-wracking. But I feel good to be here, confident, and hopefully I'll bring my best."


As the defensive reinforcements met the team in Nashville, the Oilers announced that one of their other blue liners would be calling Music City home.

Shortly before the Oilers took to the ice for practice at Sommet Center, Edmonton announced that  they had acquired a second-round choice in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft from Nashville in exchange for defenceman Denis Grebeshkov.

"We're wishing Denis well," Head Coach Pat Quinn said after practice. "He was fun to work with, he was open-minded, and certainly a coachable guy. It didn't probably go as well with us as we'd all hoped, but none of us have been that good. So this is a great opportunity for him."

The announcement was a surprise in the locker room.

"I think that probably caught everybody by surprise," Chorney said. "I walked into the rink here this afternoon and I saw that he was just walking down the hall to Nashville's locker room, and that's kind of a different situation.

"I guess that's one of those instances that you realize that this is a business, that's the way things work around here, and maybe it is an opportunity for a guy like myself to step in and play in some more critical situations."

Fellow defenceman Tom Gilbert added that he'll miss Grebeshov on the ice and in the locker room.

"I played with him for a year, had a great experience with him. Obviously we were really comfortable with each other on the ice and it's tough to lose someone like that that you've played with for a long time," he said.


Taylor Chorney, Lubomir Visnovsky & Patrick O'Sullivan watch a drill from the bench at Sommet Center.
With Grebeshkov out, Chorney and Peckham were incorporated into the defensive combinations at practice. Chorney skated with Lubomir Visnovsky, while Peckham was paired up with veteran Steve Staios. Jason Strudwick and Tom Gilbert formed the third pairing.

Edmonton's forward lines were as follows:

Dustin Penner - Sam Gagner - Robert Nilsson
Ethan Moreau - Shawn Horcoff - Mike Comrie
Patrick O'Sullivan - Ryan Potulny - Fernando Pisani
Andrew Cogliano - Gilbert Brule - Marc Pouliot / Zack Stortini


Forward Jean-Francois Jacques and defenceman Ladislav Smid did not join the Oilers on the road trip, both due to spine injuries. Quinn announced that Jacques will require surgery and will be out for the remainder of the season. Smid's prognosis is still up in the air.

"There is a disc that's kind of cracked off and hanging out and he's losing his strength and grip and has been for a while," Quinn explained. "They've determined that it's a real old sort of injury from when he was a young man but has been exacerbated and was certainly exacerbated by the hit vs. Vancouver.

"He's been experiencing loss of feeling sometimes, and finally during our testing the other day our medical people just said hey, wait a minute -- we're not going to go any further until we find out exactly what's going on. They're trying to find out whether this is on the spine or is it on the nerve endings and then they'll make a decision as to how they'll treat it from there."

When asked if Smid could be done for the season, Quinn said it's a possibility.


Grebeshkov's departure and Smid's injury dampened the mood on the blue line today, but Lubomir Visnovsky's return was a positive. With Team Slovakia, Visnovsky came within one game of earning a bronze medal in Vancouver.

"It was a big experience for me because our country played great during the tournament," he recalled. "We are not very happy because we lost the last game. It was very important for us and especially for our team. We have eight over 30's so it's maybe the last tournament for all of us together, and we believed in the medal."

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Bob Stauffer & Steve Taylor


The Oilers conducted another off-ice workout and one-hour practice Sunday morning before giving the players the rest of the day to enjoy the Olympic gold medal game between Canada and U.S.A.

One player with a unique perspective on the high-profile game and the event as a whole is Denis Grebeshkov. The 26-year-old Oiler manned the blue line for Team Russia in Vancouver, and experience said was "awesome."

"It was my first time in the Olympics and I've never experienced that before. I've been in a few World Championships but it's way different. It's not just about hockey, it's about every other sport and there's a bunch of different athletes. It was fun."

Grebeshkov's Olympic journey came to an end February 24 when Canada defeated Russia 7-3 in the Men's Hockey Quarterfinals.

"I guess we pissed them off really bad for the last few years, but at the same time they deserved that win," he recalled. "They played really good, they were excited to play against us. I knew they wanted to beat us so bad.

"They came out really aggressive. Like someone said, gorillas came out of the cages. At the same time, we did score three goals in that game and we had a few more opportunities to score, but Canada played a pretty good defensive game and Luongo made a few saves."

Now that the Olympics are coming to a close, Grebeshkov has turned his focus to Edmonton's next game: Tuesday night's battle vs. the Predators in Nashville. When asked if Wednesday's NHL trade deadline is weighing on him, the easy-going defenceman said he "doesn't even want to think about it."

"There's nothing you can do -- it's not in your power so I don't want to be concerned," he explained. "Whatever happens, it's going to happen and there's nothing you can do."

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Dan Tencer


The Oilers continued their post-Olympic break practice schedule with an hour-long skate at Rexall Place Saturday morning.

Sam Gagner took to the ice with the team for the second consecutive day, and Head Coach Pat Quinn said he is hopeful the young forward will end three weeks on the injured list by dressing Tuesday night in Nashville.

"He still has some discomfort but not nearly what he was experiencing earlier on," Quinn said. "I haven't talked to him since he skated today but he seemed to move well out there, and if he's saying that he's going to play then that will be what happens."


Like their fellow hockey fans, the Oilers are anticipating an exciting Olympic gold medal final between Canada and U.S.A. Sunday afternon. With his extensive international resume, Quinn shared his thoughts on the nerves and butterflies Team Canada will experience tomorrow.

"It will be an incredible day of excitement," the coach said. "As a fan, I'm just anticipating great hockey, great competition. And if I was in a coaching or playing position, then you think of it different ways.

"I'd try not to be scared, try to be really prepared and have all the information for the players about themselves and the others. You will have reviewed your line matches and everything 100 times over as a coach, and then calm your own butterflies, because they'll be there for everybody in that organization. I don't care how veteran you are, they're going to be there at the start.

As for what he'd like to see from Team Canada, Quinn kept it simple.

"As a Canadian, looking at our team and how they've improved every day, all I would hope for them is that they continue that improvement," he said.

Author: Jen Sharpe |
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