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The Team Today: Oilers plan Texas takeover

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


After arriving in Texas late Thursday night, the Oilers got a good night's sleep and practiced at American Airlines Arena on Friday. Lines remained unchanged from the night previous, with the exception of Ladislav Smid, who was absent from practice.


With Thursday's big 4-1 win in Detroit still fresh in their minds, the Oilers were a confident and good-natured club Friday. But despite heading into Dallas with an extra two points, Head Coach Pat Quinn was quick to emphasize that he's still looking for consistency.

"It's been a problem for us, as everyone knows. We've had good phases in a game but not a full game a lot of nights, and so we were pretty good for most of the night last night and we want to re-emphasize, as I said, the fact that's what good teams do: they're consistent in their execution and their performance and their emotional readiness.

"We want to make sure that's the start of a good trip for us, because if we don't pay a lot of attention to what's going on with this, we might get left behind, and we certainly don't want that happening," Quinn said.


After missing seven games due to a tweaked back, Jean-Francois Jacques was back in full force Thursday night. He led all players with seven hits in the game, assisted on Patrick O'Sullivan's first goal, and finished +2.

The power forward's impact has not been missed by Quinn or the Oilers opponents.

"Right from the start of training camp, we identified that he's a kid we wanted in our line-up for that reason -- He could help real skilled guys get some more room, and he has enough skill to be able to play with them as well.

"You saw [the Red Wings] switch their lines around the other night, not because we were so good with our skill level, it was because Jacques was making a difference and they were playing differently when he was on the ice," Quinn said.

According to Jacques, the first few hits are the key to his success in a game.

"The same guy tried to hit me twice and ended up just going down, and that just kind of started it all," Jacques said after practice. "It seems like as soon as I can get a couple hits early on, my game is way better and I seem to have more confidence with the puck."

When asked about making adjustments coming back from injury, the forward said he didn't experience any downtime. "As soon as I came back from my seven game, I was pretty confident. I knew that I can't let it affect my game and that's something I'll always be confident in and hopefully I'm good for all year."


Another player who made highlight reels Thursday night was Robert Nilsson, who's flashy goal in the first period turned out to be the game-winner for the Oil.
Thursday marked Nilsson's first return to the line-up since missing 10 games with a concussion, an though his goal was spectacular, Quinn is looking for more.

"That skill needs to be taken into the hockey games and done on a consistent basis," the Oilers coach emphasized. "Those nice plays that he performed last night aren't always there. It's usually when you're still trying to do those that you turn the puck over a lot and you cause a lot of heartache for your teammates.

"He's in that fine line between trying to do that more often and doing simple things really well. Sometimes you get a chance to make those beautiful plays, but that's not always there and so you want to make sure that you're doing the right thing.

"You gotta battle for what you're going to get, and that's what we're looking for," Quinn continued. "That doesn't mean fighting or anything like that, what it means is being in the fray and competing for the puck. That's what we want and that's what we have to have if Bobby's going to be a guy that helps this hockey team."

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


The Oilers landed this afternoon in Detroit where they will begin their long road trip. They found their way to the Joe Louis Arena for an off-day practice.

Robert Nilsson is expected back in the lineup tomorrow night after being sidelined with a concussion back on November 10th.

"Both Nilsson and Stone have been cleared from a medical standpoint," Quinn said. "It's now about practice time and getting back into your feelings about playing competitive game. They may come in tomorrow, we'll see after the morning skate. With Horcoff, it's a pain threshold thing. He did quite a bit today but our trainer is still hesitant to tell him that he's a go but we'll see about him in the morning as well."

"I feel really well and ready to play," said Nilsson. "I had one at the same time last year and it was a harder one but I came back quicker.  I feel I have something to prove and I can't wait to play tomorrow. I know what I have to do to be a successful player. I have to play my game. You can't change who you are, you can improve yourself but I have to play my style of game."


As anticipated, Coach Quinn kept the same lines for practice today for the most part. On the clicking top line he had Gagner, Brule and Penner. The second line showed Moreau, Cogliano and Potulny. Third line has Nilsson back in with O'Sullivan and Jacques. Last but never least had Stortini, McDonald and O'Marra.

Defensive pairings had Strudwick with Staios, Gilbert with Souray and Smid with Visnovsky. Horcoff and Stone were both on the ice this afternoon in Detroit however neither one were on a specific line.

Everyone knows how tough it is to play against the Detroit Red Wings and playing in the Joe Louis is never an easy task. Well today Pat Quinn shared what the team practiced and how improving specific things will allow the Oilers to keep up with the offensive Wings.

"We wanted quick puck movement from our defensemen, that's the real key here," said Pat Quinn. "A lot of the drills are designed around our defense moving the puck to our forwards. We practiced a lot of attack drills so that we can get used to throwing a little more pucks in the net. They still want to stick handle and pass it into the net. We're encouraging more shots on the rush and more shots in the offensive zone."


"They are very well coached," said winger Dustin Penner. "They have high offensive talent with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom and a lot of their young guys are right there with them as far as talent goes so we know we're going to have it tough especially in this building."

"They are always a lot of fun to play. They can't be underestimated. They've had a rough start but they certainly still have a lot of skill and ability on that team." said Quinn.

Author: Kristi Hennessy |


The Oilers rejoined again today for one last skate before they head off for a long road trip starting in Detroit on Thursday night.

Horcoff, who missed practice yesterday, was absent again this morning. Sam Gagner, who also missed yesterday's skate due to a doctor's appointment, did practice today. Gagner had been experiencing some discomfort with swollen lymph nodes. He did have them checked out once, but just to be on the safe side, he had a biopsy done yesterday.

"I was sick about a month ago when a lot of the guys were sick.  I had some lymph notes on my neck flare up," Gagner said. "I got an ultrasound on it and it didn't show anything but I got a biopsy on it just to make sure and have that piece of mind. The tests will take a few days but the doctors are pretty convinced that there is nothing abnormal about it."

"They wanted to check it out," said Coach Pat Quinn. "They don't know the information yet so they've taken a little piece. Anytime you have something of that nature, there is always a flutter in your heart until you find out for sure."


Fernando Pisani has had a tough start to the season starting with his back injury that kept him out for 42 games. After just a few games back, Pisani was sidelined due to complications with colitis and has been out since November 15th.

"Feeling a lot better than I was a few weeks ago," said Pisani. "Everyday seems to be getting better. That's how I'm approaching it right now. Just trying to improve everyday and trying to get my strength back and just see what the next day leads me to. It was something that was bugging me for a little while and I was hoping it would go away but it didn't it kept getting worse. It was really frustrating to deal with after coming back with the back injury. I didn't want to miss too much time but at the same time I need to take care of myself and make sure I'm healthy."

It is unknown when Fernando Pisani will be healthy enough to play again. On a brighter note, Ryan Stone has been cleared to play and is feeling in shape and excited to get back and help his team.

"I've put a couple weeks on the ice pretty hard here and I think I'm in shape and ready to go," said Stone. "It's taken a little longer than what I would have hoped. I didn't want to come back too early and not be able to help the team. I bring a lot of energy to the team. I like throwing hits, shooting the puck and going to the net. It's the little things that I do that help the team."


Now that Movember is over and the boys can go back to being boys, we had a chance to get a final statement from the participants. In first place with the most donations received was Ryan Stone. Here is what he had to say:

"I challenged my family and friends to get involved and donate what they could," said Stone. "They did a great job and it's for a good cause. I was getting weird looks as I walked through the mall or when driving my car but I thought I grew a good one. I was pretty confident in my moustache. Chorney was pretty good, Brule was terrible but I think we knew that from the start."

Sam Gagner was a little lost today and seemed to cherish his prized moustache.

"It's a tough day for me. I feel like I lost a part of me. Fortunately it was the worst part of me, it didn't look very good. I didn't get many compliments on it but I think I suprised some people with the ability to grow one. When Mac [Colin McDonald] came up, he had a pretty good one. He looked like a highway patrol cop.
It's probably good that they are all gone and we can go back to winning some games here."

"I think Storts shaved a couple times but no one noticed because twelve hours later he had another moustache," said Patrick O'Sullivan. "Stortini was quite impressive, he probably had a mustache when he was eleven or twelve years old."

Author: Kristi Hennessy |


The Oilers practiced Monday morning at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park, and compared to most practices over the past month and a half, the ice looked full and busy.

Sunday's full day off gave many the chance to recover from the tough loss in Vancouver, meaning the only surprise absentees for Monday's practice were Sam Gagner and Shawn Horcoff.

Head Coach Pat Quinn said Gagner had an appointment, while Horcoff is "a little banged up. It was sensible for us not to practice him today and we'll see how he fares for tomorrow and the next day."

Quinn said he expects both players to dress in Thursday's game at Detroit and announced that Ryan Stone and Robert Nilsson will also be good to go. Stone has been out with a knee injury since October 22, while Nilsson has been sidelined with a concussion suffered November 10.

"Both of them have been cleared from a medical standpoint," Quinn said. "They'll get these three practice days and that'll help."


Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin did not take to the ice Monday, marking the 10th day of his day-to-day back injury. Quinn and GM Steve Tambellini had no news on the team's starter.

"He's not cleared for anything yet," Quinn said. "He's a top player, one of our top players, and when you miss a top player it's not expected and you miss them. You have to somehow suck it up and keep going."

With Khabibulin out indefinitely and forward Ales Hemsky out for the remainder of the regular season, Tambellini said the entire organization needs to look on the bright side.

"The half full answer . . . is that it does present opportunity, whether it's in goal or it's in some offensive situations without Hemsky. You work a lot in your career to be presented with an opportunity. The biggest thing is making sure you're ready to take advantage of that."


GM Steve Tambellini
It may be tough for the Oilers to stay positive with the injuries, illnesses, and recent tough losses, but coaches, management, and players are adamant that hard work and determination will pay off in wins.

"The make-up of any team or any player has skill, the intangible parts -- the attitude, if you will, that deals with heart -- and also has knowledge, how to play the game and understanding," Quinn explained. "We try to develop all three of those sides to the guy all the time. And you get challenges, usually on that intangible side, the challenges come with adversity, with injury, with losing points when you shouldn't lose points.

"The guys are fighting hard. We didn't give up effort. We had a lousy start the other night and bounced back and played certainly a real good second period. . . They didn't run away, and to me that's a sign that we've got some character here."

Tambellini echoed the bench boss' comments. "Since coming off that long road trip, there seemed to more a sense of energy in the group, which is encouraging. I thought we played some strong games against San Jose, with some obvious mistakes that happened, and played well against good teams. Had a tough start in Vancouver but came back and played hard.

"Are there ways to get better? Obviously," the GM continued. "There has to be an environment for people to get better, and the coaches are working and I know the players are too."

When asked if the team might benefit from a mid-season trade for new blood in the locker room, defenceman Steve Staios replied that those hypothetical discussions aren't productive.

"There's no use sitting around thinking about what would happen if we had someone else in the room," he said. "We have a group of guys in the room, and our job is to go and get the job done and execute the game plan. Each individual has to look at themselves, come prepared to practice, and be a true professional."

Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers took the ice in Edmonton suburb Sherwood Park at around noon Thursday, but a handful of players didn't participate.

According to Head Coach Pat Quinn, team staff decided that players who have been carrying the bulk of the ice time in recent games deserved the day off.

"We looked at the time on ice with all the games this week that we had to play, four in six I think it is, we decided that the guys that logged 20 or more in the games up to this point would be better off not having to work out today," he said.

Other notable absentees were goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who continues to suffer from a sore back, and Ales Hemsky. The Oilers confirmed that Hemsky suffered an upper body injury during Wednesday's game vs. L.A., and Quinn said an MRI is scheduled.

"We haven't had any report, but I'm pretty sure there's an MRI today when they have the opportunity," the Coach stated. "He's not expected to be available for a little bit anyway."


With Hemsky out indefinitely, the Oilers recalled forwards Ryan O'Marra and Colin McDonald Thursday morning. They also loaned Liam Reddox back to Springfield.
On the topic of Reddox, Quinn confirmed that his play had dropped off as of late and that he would benefit from a stint in the AHL.

"He came up and gave us some games early that were really good and then slipped off from the defensive standpoint, where we expected him to be good," said Quinn. "He had a couple of errors that were around him and for some reason he didn't play with the same confidence in the last couple (of games).

"We were going to just call one up, probably O'Marra, but with Hemsky going out, these are the guys that our coaching staff and scouts down there recommend to come in and fill the vacancies."


O'Marra and McDonald aren't the only noteworthy players who will arrive in Edmonton over the next few hours: the San Jose Sharks -- including forward Dany Heatley -- are also eagerly anticipated.

This past summer, the Oilers' reported efforts to trade Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner, and Ladislav Smid for Heatley dominated hockey headlines in Alberta and beyond. Friday's game will mark Heatley's first appearance in Edmonton since the trade saga concluded.

"If he's going to be in the corner with the puck, I'm going to try to run him over. But I try to do it every game with other players. I've got no hard feelings towards him," Smid said. "I was just happy to stay here and be a part of the Oilers. I was just happy he didn't decide to come here."


It's been six days since Khabibulin missed his first game due to injury and, accordingly, five days since Devan Dubnyk first filled the back-up role for the Oilers. The Falcons' starter is used to playing a lot of games, but he isn't complaining about his new-found position on the Oilers' bench once the puck drops.

"The American League is kind of a weekend league, so I played on Saturday and usually I'd be getting ready, geared up to play tomorrow. So if it goes a while, then it might get a little weird, but right now I'm just happy to be here and enjoying the time on the ice.

"It's pretty exciting to get the first call and I've been getting worked pretty hard at practice but that's what I'm here for," Dubnyk said. "I want to take every opportunity I can to be on the ice with these guys while I'm up here. It's been fun, a lot of hard work, and I'm enjoying every minute."

Author: Jen Sharpe |
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