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The Team Today: On the Island

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers skated at the NY Islanders' practice facility Sunday afternoon, and while one player was notably absent, two rejoined the fold.

Shawn Horcoff did not join the team on the ice due to the flu. There is no word yet on whether he will play Monday vs. the Islanders.

While Horcoff was off the practice list, Mike Comrie and Lubomir Visnovsky were back in their gear after missing recent games due to illness. Injured defenceman Steve Staios also skated, proving he is one step closer to returning to the line-up.

"I feel much, much better," Visnovsky said after the practice. "This is my first practice with the team and it's not easy after the four days I didn't skate."

"I can't tell if I will play or not (tomorrow), but we will see after the morning skate"

According to Comrie, his recovery was complicated by an asthma diagnosis. "With this type of flu, it's been a struggle to catch my breath. It's been challenging because you want to get out there, you want to play, but at the same time if you're not going to help the team there isn't a point to be out there and playing."

With the constant changes to the line-up, Head Coach Pat Quinn said it's too early to say who will dress vs. the Islanders.

"We don't know if they'll be back playing yet, but at least they got a workout in. Steve's like (Fernando) Pisani was -- there's so much time off, you're almost half afraid to get them in without some practice days, but we'll just see how he is tomorrow. I'm not planning on him right now but hopefully Visnovsky and Comrie come back in," said Quinn.


It's November 1st and that means that thousands of men across the world are getting crafty with their facial hair by growing moustaches for Movember, a month-long fundraising challenge in support of prostate cancer research. This year, seven Oilers are getting in on the 'stache action.

Gilbert Brule, Taylor Chorney, Sam Gagner, J.F. Jacques, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ryan Stone, and Zack Stortini have all committed to growing moustaches this month.

"A couple of my buddies from back home did it last year. I got a few guys together this year and we're going to raise some money for prostate cancer hopefully," Gagner explained.

"By the time the month's up, I don't know how much of a moustache I'm going to have, but I'm going to try my best," Brule said.

While it may take a week or two for some moustaches to develop, Stortini is confident that his won't take too long.
"I usually grow it pretty quick; it kinda comes natural," he added.

"I'm probably going to end up regretting it because I'm probably going to look like a fool, but I guess if everyone's doing it, why not," Taylor Chorney said.


50 years ago today, Jacques Plante debuted the hockey mask, and during yesterday's game in Boston, Nikolai Khabibulin put his to good use. The Oilers goalie stopped a slapshot from intimidating defenceman Zdeno Chara with his noggin, resulting in a noticable dent in the mask frame.

Here's a photo of the damage:

Nikolai Khabibulin's dented mask after a collision with Zdeno Chara's slapshot. (Photo by Steve Taylor |

Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers left Edmonton at 10am Friday morning and landed in Boston at 5pm local time. Notable additions to the traveling contingent were injured veterans Fernando Pisani and Steve Staios, as well as Mike Comrie and Lubomir Visnovsky, who recently missed a number of games due to the flu.

After arriving at the team hotel, Head Coach Pat Quinn said Pisani and Staios will likely participate in the morning skates but are questionable for Saturday's afternoon game (11am MDT) vs. the Bruins and Monday's game vs. the Islanders.

"We wanted to get certainly practice or ice time with the group, get them travelling again," Quinn explained. "Steve, he did pass the most recent test. He's been out three weeks and Fernando's been longer than that, so they need some scrimmage time. I'd be afraid to just throw them to the wolves without an actual scrimmage-type practice or two to have them acclimatize. It's almost the same as starting all over again."

However, Quinn added that in a pinch, the players could dress.

"It wouldn't be fair to throw these two in after such a long time out, but I guess if there were some emergencies, we'd consider it."

As for Comrie and Visnovsky, Quinn said they are being assessed day-to-day. "I don't think if we had to play tonight either one would be fine with it. We'll assess them again in the morning. Both came with the thought that there was a possibility for tomorrow, and we'll have to see that in the morning."


With Comrie's potential return to the line-up, the status of Edmonton's "Kid Line" -- featuring Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, and Robert Nilsson -- is in doubt. In Thursday's game vs. Detroit, the trio produced zero points, only four shots, and were on the ice for three of the Red Wings' five goals.

"The line ended up being a pretty heavy minus on the night so you wouldn't want to continue that," Quinn explained. "One thing Detroit does when they decide to do it, is they can check well, and that's what happened. The second half of the game they decided to check a little bit and it changed it for the guys like the kids on that line. Earlier on, they had a little bit of room. Although they didn't put any in the net, they still had some play.

"So against a more physical team, and a team that's going to fight you for space all the time, we have to really consider what our lines look like."


The Oilers play their earliest game of the season Saturday vs. Boston, and Quinn isn't thrilled with the 1pm puck drop (11am Edmonton time).

"That dates back to the 60's that they've had their afternoon game, so they're used to that. We don't do it very often," the Coach said. "This is one of the examples of unfortunate scheduling I would say, where you play at home and have to travel, get a practice in, and have to play in the middle of the day. I don't think any team would feel good about that."

You can follow the Oilers-Bruins game right here on or on Rogers Sportsnet West.

Author: Jen Sharpe |


The Oilers were called to a team meeting this morning at Rexall Place to discuss the situation of the flu spreading around the Oilers room and the NHL for that matter. The Oilers confirmed late last night that Ladislav Smid had been tested for the H1N1 swine flu and they found that he does in fact have it. Since the swine flu shot is not yet available to the Edmonton Oilers, the team must put some preventative measures in play and make sure it doesn't spread any further.

After the 9:45am meeting, the team took to the ice for practice. They go back to the drawing board to patch some holes and find the missing puzzle pieces of their game.

Lubomir Visnovsky did not attend practice this morning as he had flu symptoms in last night's game and left in the third period. Although he has not been tested and it is not confirmed, he is being treated for the H1N1 swine flu at this time.

Fernando Pisani on the other hand did attend practice today. He stayed on the ice after everyone was finished. He says he is feeling good and looks forward to getting back as soon as possible.

"Yesterday was my first practice with the team and it felt good. I think everyday its going to get better and better. I haven't had any issues with the back so that's a positive sign. Now it's just a matter of getting my timing down and getting back on the ice." said Pisani.

"I feel good, but like I said, I've only had two practices. Today was a good state, and I felt good. I just want to get some practices in and see how I feel. The last thing you want to do is jump into a game and not feel like your cardio is there or your timing is there because then you feel like you're catching up all the time." he said.


Smid along with a handful of other players have been hit with flu-like symptoms. Gilbert Brule, Lubomir Visnovsky, Denis Grebeshkov, and Mike Comrie all had flu-like symptoms. The problem now is following procedures. Alberta Health says they do not swab for H1N1 unless the patient is hospitalized. If you go to a public clinic to get tested, you don't see the results for six to seven days.

"They did swab two of our players and the other player showed negative although he had flu like symptoms."  said Quinn.

This other player he refers to is Gilbert Brule who missed three games with a strain of the flu.

"When its available (swine flu shot) they will be getting the shot. In Alberta we have not been allocated the serum at this point. It is not available although the public were able to lineup but we haven't asked our players to lineup with the public at this point."

Author: Kristi Hennessy |


In the surprisingly warm confines of Rexall Place, the Oilers followed up their thrilling come-from-behind win over the Blue Jackets with a short 11am practice.

In what has become the norm in recent weeks, injuries and illness kept seven players off the ice. Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios, Ryan Stone, Fernando Pisani, and Marc Pouliot continued to suffer from their various ailments, while Gilbert Brule remained out with the flu. Mike Comrie, who missed Thursday's morning skate due to a fever but played that night, was also absent.

"Mike is still sufferent a little bit of the after effects of being ill yesterday, and so he's staying home today," Head Coach Pat Quinn explained. "If Mike can't come down to Calgary tomorrow, then there's a good chance Jason (Strudwick) will be lined up at forward."

On the topic of Brule's status for this weekend's road games, Head Coach Pat Quinn was uncertain. "Our training staff said that he might join us on the trip in practice, but we haven't been confirmed of that yet.

"[The trainers] are very cautious with this, obviously -- as they should be," Quinn continued. "This seems to be a very serious thing. At the same time, they're probably looking at a lot of stuff here. It might not just be only the flu symptoms, although that's what we've been told at this point."


With the Oilers line-up depleted, Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger played an active role in a few powerplay drills. Although he was wearing a track suit and white ball cap, the former Oilers captain and Stanley Cup winner didn't look too out of place on the ice.


Dustin Penner's five-point performance the previous night was the topic du jour in the locker room after practice.

We're proud of him, he's played great, but he hasn't really surprised anybody. We know how good he can be," captain Ethan Moreau said. "That's pro sports for you. It's amazing how things can turn around. And it shows you his mental strengths. It could went the other way and felt sorry for himself after everything -- after last year, the trade stuff."

Penner admitted he was overwhelmed by fan reaction, including a standing ovation after his second goal, and hopes to continue giving them something to cheer about.

"It was a pretty special moment," he said. "I wish I could recapture that feeling whenever I wanted just by snapping my fingers. Hopefully if I continue to play the way I have been, maybe those nights will be more frequent.

"My confidence is pretty high right now, but with that you have to worry that you're not bordering on thinking too offensively and being too content with everything. You've got to keep pushing."

Author: Jen Sharpe |
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