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THE TEAM TODAY: Practice makes perfect

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


The Edmonton Oilers were back on the ice on Sunday morning for practice at Rexall Place. It was the team's first non-gameday skate since last Tuesday when they were in Montreal.

"Practices are obviously important for our structure and making sure we have the right habits and are doing the right things," said Oilers forward Sam Gagner. "Today was a little more of a flow practice to kind of get our legs under us after last night. I'd expect tomorrow to get back into the structure of things and hammer some of the things home that we need to be better at."

After the game on Saturday, Coach Renney alluded to the team coming out flat and attributed it to missing Friday's practice.

"We know it wasn't our best game (last night) but we didn't quit, we stayed with the program," noted winger J-F Jacques. "That's a big difference between now and maybe three weeks ago. We found a way to win the game rather than losing it."

The game on Saturday night ended a tough stretch for the team where they played 16 games in 30 days, including 10 on the road.

"It's been a tough schedule the last three weeks, just playing every other day. We've got a couple of days to work hard on some stuff and I'm sure it's going to pay off," said Jacques.


Saturday's win was the first of a season-high six-game homestand which will run over the next two weeks.

"It was a big win for us, especially coming off the road and having some success on the road. It's important to come back here and follow it up with a solid effort," Gagner remarked.

Taylor Hall agreed.

"We want to build this place to be our home, to be a really good place to play," said Hall. "In order for us to get back in the playoff hunt we need to really do well on this homestand. We really set ourselves up with a good road trip there."

J-F Jacques also added that getting the fans involved should also play a big role in the team's success over the next few weeks.

"We want to really establish a strong game here at home. You rarely get a six-game homestand anymore during the season. It's really important for us to not only get us going but get the fans going too to make sure we have a strong five games here left," said Jacques.


Two Oilers who have been particularly hot of late are Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall.

Gagner has put up points in each of his last five games to move into a tie for second in team scoring with Ales Hemsky at 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists).

"I've felt better. I just want to keep improving. When the team's going, everyone's individually better and it makes it a little easier," said Gagner. "We're all having fun right now. We just want to keep it going and keep trying to improve. If we do that, it'll continue to get better."

Hall now has nine goals in his last 19 games after going scoreless in his first seven as he continues to adapt to the NHL game.

"It's more just a comfort level. The linemates I've been playing with have really helped me out. I think it's a lot easier when you do have chemistry with your linemates. From there I've just gotten more comfortable and seen the game in a different way and it's helped out.


Oilers prospect Linus Omark turned some heads in Winnipeg this past weekend where the Oklahoma City Barons played a pair of games against Vancouver's AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.

On Friday, Omark did a spin move in the neutral zone before skating in on Moose goaltender Eddie Lack.
When he got within striking range, he tried a flip shot that just narrowly missed the far post.

Saturday night, Omark had a breakaway and didn't do the spin but tried the same flip shot. This time he scored.

Watch both of Omark's attempts and an interview with Omark & Gerber

The Barons lost Friday's game 3-2 in a shootout but rebounded to win 4-0 on Saturday. The Barons sit third in the AHL's West Division with 31 points in 25 games (14-8-1-2).


Devan Dubnyk

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Ashley from Devon, Alberta submitted a question for Devan Dubnyk.

ASHLEY: "On game-days that you are the starter, is there a pre-game ritual you do? If so what is it? And when you take to the ice at game-time during the national anthem, what is usually running through your mind? Any 'pep' talk to yourself or anything like that?"

DEVAN: "Not rituals, really. You try to have a basic routine that you stick to. I'm not real superstitious, so I try to stay away from stuff like that, so that if something goes wrong it doesn't throw you off.

"You know, just try to have a similar practice; same kind of shots, same views, just do something that makes you feel good. Just try to have a similar day as far as eating -- when you eat, when you nap. Just basically try to keep everything the same.

"As far as going out on the ice during the anthem, you just try to think about things you're doing to do during the same. Whether it's angles, or skating, or being in positions, just things like that that are going to make you successful during the game."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.

Author: Marc Ciampa |



After coming away with wins in all three games on the recent eastern Canadian road swing, the Oilers return home to begin a six-game homestand tonight against the struggling St. Louis Blues.

Having enjoyed a day off Friday following the team’s impressive 5-0 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers got back to work this morning with a 30-minute skate to prepare for the imminent Saturday night clash.

The lines and defensive pairings that have resulted in the recent success will remain intact, aside from one small change on the fourth line where physical forward J-F Jacques will be inserted in place of Steve MacIntyre.

Nikolai Khabibulin, fresh off a stunning shutout performance Thursday night against Toronto, will again get the nod between the pipes.


With the group basking in the glory of a clean sweep on the road, the players are eager to carry the acquired momentum into the longest homestand of the 2010-11 season.

Head Coach Tom Renney says the good vibes are a positive change, but that the team needs to remain on an even keel as they look to extend the winning streak.

"We've got to come out well. We've been on the road now and we feel good about our minor accomplishments there. We have to make sure that we come out really hard and smart, and put the heat on this team," said the bench boss.

"Discipline to that end is going to be important, but not at the expense of our compete. I think beyond that, it will be how we manage the puck tonight; and just make sure that the team needs to work hard for everything they get."

"When you've got a homestand like this, you've got to do everything you can to play your best hockey."

Rookie Jordan Eberle, who has now scored six points in his last five games, agreed with Renney’s sentiments.

"Home is always a place where you kind of get the fans behind you and you get the little extra advantage, so we want to take advantage of that and use it,” Eberle said of the homestand.

"I think with Hemmer (Ales Hemsky) out, as a team we have to pick up his offensive ability and his impact on the game. Not only one guy is going to do that. We have to spread it out amongst the team."


The Oilers find themselves in a similar situation as last season, when the team rattled off five consecutive wins on the road and then returned home for an extremely important homestand. With the unfortunate results (four losses) of a year ago fresh in the minds of the media, players and coaches weren’t concerning themselves with that past statistic.

"Thanks for reminding me,” Eberle laughed. “We're playing better hockey. We're not only winning games, but we're feeling good about winning games; that we earned them. For us coming into this homestand, obviously we have a lot of confidence and we have to forget about the road trip."

"Take the confidence, but you have to learn from it and move on, and obviously we have an important game tonight. Any team on any night in this league can win, so it's just a matter of who shows up."

The head coach agreed, as he expanded further on what the team needs to do tonight to ensure to positive outcome.

"I think we have to continue to pay attention to the details that we've started the year with, quite honestly, and be relentless on those," the coach said. "We can't allow ourselves to feel that good where we just stand around and watch. We have a long way to go to catch up to the teams that are in the playoff spot, and that's our objective naturally."


With the team’s offensive game currently firing on all cylinders, the defensive game has taken large steps forward as well. Defenceman Ladislav Smid commented on the change, and says that the improvement is more of a full-team effort.

"The forwards are allowing us to gap up a little bit better; we can stand up on the opposition and our F3 (third forward) is always there for us. One of the forwards is always helping us defensively and offensively," said the stay-at-home blueliner. "We just have to keep it going."


With the Oilers currently riding a season-high winning streak, in addition to showcasing more complete efforts on a nightly basis, Head Coach Tom Renney wasn’t shy to compliment his club’s efforts and comment further on the expected growth of the new Edmonton Oilers as they continue through the trials of a new era.

"They're just growing up. This team will have to grow up before your eyes; and we're going to have to mess up a little bit and persevere, and we're doing that," said Renney. "We're just evolving. That's all."

With the growth, confidence, and success riding high, Edmonton looks to extend its winning streak to four tonight against the St. Louis Blues from Rexall Place.


The Oilers and Blues took a while to get going Saturday night, and after third-period goals by Ryan Jones and Eric Brewer, found themselves even after 60 minutes. But only 23 seconds into overtime, Taylor Hall caught a breakaway and fired home the game-winner to secure a 2-1 win for Edmonton and extend the club's winning streak to four games.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |, with files from Tom Gazzola & Bob Stauffer



After starting their back-to-back with a 4-3 OT win in Montreal last night, the Oilers eased in to game day number two by opting out of the morning skate and holding a team meeting at the hotel instead.

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was one of the few players to take to the ice as he is slated to make his first start since suffering a groin injury Nov. 17 vs. Chicago.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him (play)," head coach Tom Renney said. "I think our guys love it when he's in net, and with the way our goaltending has been, I think he'll give us as much a chance to win as anybody, of course."

Forward Ales Hemsky made his return to the line-up vs. the Canadiens but suffered a bit of a set-back in the game and is not expected to play vs. the Leafs.

"We've got to protect our athletes," Renney explained. "It's a long season, there's a lot of work to do, I'll be prudent with him. At this point in time, I'll have to say doubtful (for tonight)."


With two wins so far on this eastern road trip, the Oilers will be gunning to make it a perfect three-for-three with a win tonight in Toronto. The club's confidence is high and both players and coaches are optimistic.

Andrew Cogliano said earning the come-from-behind win in Montreal was a "really good feeling.

"It's something we haven't felt a lot of that this year and I think it just shows how we're coming together as a team now. One more game left on this road trip and hopefully we'll end it off with a good win."

"It's definitely exciting, especially after our win last night," Sam Gagner added. "We feel like we're doing a lot of good things and we just want to stay on it."

Consistency has been a struggle for Edmonton all season, and Renney wants to see a third-straight solid effort from his club tonight.

"Contrary to what we've done earlier in the year when we've had a big win and we've decided that that was enough, and my sense is that they understand that that's not enough, that we have a lot of work to do and a big season still ahead of us," the coach said.


For a handful of players, a win in Toronto would be especially satisfying because of hometown ties.

"It's going to be fun," Taylor Hall said. "Obviously I have a lot of family here. I've never been fortunate enough to go to a game in Toronto but definitely it's a great hockey city, they love their hockey there, and it should be a good game."

Cogliano echoed Hall's sentiment.

"I think it will be pretty fun," he said. "It's exciting for guys like myself who live here to come play against the Leafs. I think with the start we're off on the road trip, I think everyone's pretty excited."


Led by some of their youngest players, the Oilers dominated Thursday's game in Toronto, out-scoring the Leafs 5-0 despite being outshot 33-19. Rookies Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Magnus Paajarvi combined for six points, while Nikolai Khabibulin played a perfect game in net. His efforts secured Edmonton's first-ever shutout in 41 all-time games played in Toronto.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Bob Stauffer

Author: Marc Ciampa |

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