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The Team Today: Off-Ice Workout

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers

Pat Quinn chats in the dressing room

The Oilers did not take to the ice today, instead they took part in an off-ice workout as well as a team meeting.

"We play every second day other than today and we were looking for spots where we could give them a break," said head coach Pat Quinn. "We decided we didn't want to do a full day away so we brought them in to do some dryland."

Quinn was reluctant to give the team the entire day off, noting that training was important - particularly at this time of year.

"We wanted to target some areas during the season that we're on top of so in April we're not 'de-trained' due to a lack of certain areas of training."

Overall, Quinn was happy with the team's performance on Saturday but did acknowledge there was still a lot of work to do.

"We played a pretty good hockey team there and we competed hard. Those are the intangible things you do like," he said. "On the four goals we let in, we were directly responsible for each of them going into our night."


The slip-up by Nikolai Khabibulin, as unfortunate as it was for Oilers fans, was nothing new to coach Pat Quinn. When asked for a similar occurance, he didn't even have to dip that far back into the memory bank.

"In the Spengler Cup, I was with Canada's team and we were outplaying the host-team (HC Davos in the final game badly but we were doing the same thing. We allowed two weak goals on a five-on-five basis and
with 1:10 left in the game our goaltender overhandled the puck."

The goaltender was Justin Pogge and it was 2006.

"That night it was Justin and our second goalie there was (Oilers prospect Devan) Dubnyk. Maybe blame the coach for putting the wrong goalie in," Quinn chuckled.

The coach also reflected on the game in general and how results can swing from night to night.

"We were 10-1-3 to start the season then went into Montreal in a game for first place and were beat 9-0," he said, noting back when he was coaching the Flyers.

Quinn also talked about the Flyers team he had coached that went 35 games without a loss but prior to that had lost 6-0 to the Atlanta Flames in 1979-80.


After starting Saturday's game on the fourth line, Oilers pivot Sam Gagner worked his way up the lineup and contributed in a big way on the scoresheet.

"Sam did well. I'm still in the learn stage - and I said this before about Sam - he just didn't show what was expected based on what I learned about him. Last night he did."

Gagner started on the fourth line with Moreau and Stortini but eventually worked his way up the lineup.

"I wanted to play him against certain guys and he was having a good evening," Quinn remarked. "I made a switch to put him in a different area and next thing you know he puts one in the net," Quinn remarked. "But his play up until that time had been very satisfactory."

Gagner showed a lot of emotion on the evening. In addition to the fight, his goal was punctuated by a dive up against the glass.

"I love to play and I'm pretty passionate about it. I want to be a guy who his teammates can count on to produce some offence," said Gagner.

The skilled centre ignited the team with his fight against Craig Conroy and then scored to tie the game at 3-3 in the third period.

"It was a good feeling to get in the fight and score the goal but it's a tough way to lose. Hopefully we can bounce back from it," Gagner continued.

"I want this year to be a lot better year for me. I wanted to get out there and show some passion. Hopefully I can continue to improve as the season goes along here."


For the second straight day, head coach Pat Quinn was rocking the plaid shirt (see Exhibit A):

Author: Marc Ciampa |

Ethan Moreau at Friday's practice.

The saying goes that practice makes perfect, and with four straight days of practice behind them, the Oilers are eager to don their game jerseys and test that theory.

"A lot of practicing, and training camp was pretty intense, so it's good to have a game coming up and a stretch of games to start the season," Patrick O'Sullivan said. "That's why we're here, right? We want to play. I think everyone's really excited and looking forward to tomorrow."

Defenceman Denis Grebeshkov agrees. "We are all excited, we are all ready for opening night especially. We all feel pretty good about the season coming up."

According to Head Coach Pat Quinn, the practices have been useful but it's time to drop the puck.

"This whole process has been good. I've enjoyed it all, but I want to get to the games," Quinn said after meeting with his players and staff following practice. "The minute I don't have those sorts of feelings about hockey games, then I'll probably want to go to Palm Springs. I hadn't lost that feeling before and it's one of the reasons I wanted to come back (to coaching)."


After missing Thursday's practice due to an inflamed ankle, many assumed Ethan Moreau would miss the season opener vs. the Flames. But
the Oilers Captain fully participated in Friday's practice and will play in Saturday's game.

"It's great news," teammate Shawn Horcoff said. "He brings a lot to this line-up, on and off the ice, and he's obviously our leader. He got a little bit of a freaky injury there, but it looks like he'll be okay and ready to go."

When asked about Moreau's return and role with the club, Head Coach Pat Quinn praised the defensive forward for his contributions.

"Captains are character guys. Should they be your best player? I've never thought that way.

"Ethan is a guy that has been here a long time, he's established his worth as a hockey player. Has he been a 40, 30, 25 goal scorer? I don't think so very often, but does he show up every night, use his skills, is he a leader by example, does he care about his teammates? Those are the issues that make good captains in my opinion, not how many points they get on a given night," Quinn said.

Author: Jen Sharpe |


Another 90-minute Oilers practice was followed by an extensive Q & A with Head Coach Pat Quinn Thursday morning. The media peppered the coach with questions on a variety of topics, including specific players, special teams, injuries, and his assessment of the Oilers so far.


The Oilers' roster is over-stocked heading into Saturday's season-opener vs. Calgary, and the status of "bubble" player Robert Nilsson was among the first questions posed to Quinn after practice.

"We're still in that 'let's see' stage with people to establish who makes this a better team with whatever skillset they bring in," Quinn said. "Everyone here knows [Nilsson] has a really high level of puck-handling ability and skating, and he thinks pretty well too -- somewhat risky, and I'd say that risky element is what's keeping him off the chart right now.

We're stil trying to sort out those positions as far as who gets to start from one to 14. In fact, we've still got a couple of guys on the IR to consider here," the coach continued. "His training camp started slow but built pretty fast. So he might not be in Saturday, but he might be. It depends on Ethan."

Moreau did not skate in Thursday's practice. Quinn said that the Captain was suffering from an inflamed ankle and that it is being assessed day-to-day.


With Nikolai Khabibulin owning the position as Oilers starting goaltender, Quinn was questioned about his confidence in back-up Jeff Deslauriers and how he sees the goalies splitting the season.

"I am (confident in Deslauriers), although I haven't seen him play a lot. I like his size, I like his puck-stopping ability, I think he's a kid that has a big upside to him. And I'm anxious to see him play some more games, the games that count.

"We know Khabibulin's terrific, or at least we believe he is, and I don't want to wear him down either," Quinn continued. "We're looking forward to him coming in and playing anywhere between 40 and 60, and probably not a whole lot more, but we're open on that too."


With Saturday's season-opener just around the corner, Quinn was asked for his thoughts on the progress that's been made so far and his expectations for the early part of the season. Patience and commitment were the themes he emphasized.

"When you're trying to learn new things, it's not only just explaining, drawing on the board, and getting it set up, even showing video," Quinn explained. "It's taking it into the practice and then repeating it, and doing it consistently until it becomes part of your game. And that's what we're trying to do now is getting it into their minds through the drills, and I know from having been around a long time, that that is a process that you have to work on every day.

"The boys have worked hard to understand what we're trying to do as a concept of play that we think fits this group, and they worked hard to try to get to the positions that we're asking them to get to.

"There is no magic wand here," the coach emphasized. "We need 22 guys to accept what we're trying to do and make a commitment to that. So all these things don't come easily because we have 22 different guys -- some are thinking about themselves, some are thinking about their ice time. We've got to get them so they're thinking about their team, their teammates, and what we're trying to accomplish together.

"And do you ever sense satisfaction from a coaching standpoint and execution? I say, no, but we'll get to a point where we're executing well and getting good results and that's where you think your'e making some progress. It's hard to tell now because we haven't had a real game yet in terms of having them count, so our first measuring stick is Saturday night.

Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers continued to prepare for Saturday's season-opener with another lengthy practice at Rexall Place Wednesday morning. Coaches maintained Tuesday's line combinations, hilighted by J.F. Jacques, Shawn Horcoff, and Ales Hemsky on the top line and Sam Gagner skating on the fourth line with Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini.


For the second day, Jeff Deslauriers donned his new pads, blocker, and glove for practice Wednesday. The new bright orange Reebok gear supplements the copper-coloured equipment he wore last year and will be worn with the vintage jersey this season.

"Somebody close to me just threw the idea at me, I considered it and said why not," the goalie explained after practice. "It's a bit more colourful and I'll try it."

Deslauriers says that after this week's practices, the new pads will be broken in by the weekend.


Longtime Toronto Maple Leaf Mats Sundin announced his retirement this morning, and former coach Pat Quinn had kind words to say about the star forward.

"It was a great experience to have him on a team that I was involved with. He was a gentleman, he was a wonderful athlete, he was a good captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and certainly was an honest, everyday performer that was very dependable.

"Internationally, he was a top player as well, and certainly was one of the key reasons the Swedes were winners in Torino," Quinn said.

Author: Jen Sharpe |


In the morning's first drill, Edmonton's most-productive line in the final pre-season game remained intact, with Shawn Horcoff anchoring Ales Hemsky and J.F. Jacques.

Hemsky left the ice soon after the drill, and team staff confirmed a pulled groin was the reason for his early departure. There was no confirmation on whether he will play Saturday vs. Calgary.

Patrick O'Sullivan, Mike Comrie, and Ryan Stone skated together on the second line, while Dustin Penner, Gilbert Brule, and Andrew Cogliano formed the third. Sam Gagner dropped down to the fourth line with Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini, while Robert Nilsson and Steve MacIntyre completed the list of forwards.


After skating on the fourth line rather than the spot on third that he occupied Sunday night, Gagner was asked for his thoughts on how he's played this pre-season.

"I don't really want to get caught up in lines," Gagner said in the locker room. "It's the way it happened today and tomorrow could be a different thing. For me, I've gotta play the same way no matter what the situation. And maybe in pre-season I didn't play that way.

"It's a new coach, a new system, and maybe I was thinking about that too much," he continued. "At the end of the day, you've still got to play and you've still got to play your game. I realize that now, and it's a good thing you get that through with in pre-season and then I'm feeling good and confident going into the season."

"He's a highly skilled player," GM Steve Tambellini later said. "He maybe hasn't been able to perform to his ability right now. I would trust in Sam's character as an athlete that, when push comes to shove, there won't be any issues with him."

Head Coach Pat Quinn said he has yet to see the Gagner that he's heard so much about.

"You certainly look at history to understand what's going on here," Quinn said. "He did, to my understanding, have a real hot spot a couple of years ago in his first year. It's the start of the third year now -- it's time to start moving that up. I haven't seen that part in camp yet, but most people believe that it's there and it's going to come . . .
Part of our job is to bring all these guys to a higher level, including Sam or anybody else."

When asked about Saturday's line combinations, Quinn said, "For the purposes of preparing for the opening night, that's probably where he's going to start, so we'll see what happens from there."


Word spread quickly around Rexall Place that Rob Schremp had been picked by the New York Islanders early Tuesday morning. Schremp had been placed on waivers after Sunday's victory over the Canucks.

"The short time I was around him, he was a real top individual, his attitude was terrific," Quinn commented. "We bumped into some numbers here of guys that have high skill levels like he does, and so anytime you see a young man getting a chance to play at a top level, you're happy for him."


During his media scrum, Tambellini also confirmed that forward Liam Reddox had been placed on waivers Tuesday morning. Oilers staff later announced that defenceman Theo Peckham was assigned to the Springfield Falcons (AHL).


ALES HEMSKY: Hemsky left practice early due to a pulled groin. No word yet on whether he will play Saturday.

FERNANDO PISANI: The veteran forward continues to suffer from an undisclosed back injury and was absent from Tuesday's practice.

"He had an MRI yesterday, I believe, to get checked and I know he's had a problem before. It's just not allowing him to move very quickly," Tambellini said. "Fernie is going to be quite some time -- an indefinite amount of time is the best probably I can say. He would most likely go on long term injury."

MARC POULIOT: Pouliot continues to be plagued by an injury to his pubic bone and did not skate Tuesday.

Author: Jen Sharpe |

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