The Oilers landed back in Edmonton early this morning following a winless road trip through Nashville and St. Louis. Even with the late plane ride home, the Oilers opted to return to the rink this morning for an off-ice workout at Rexall Place, as the team prepares to face the Calgary Flames tomorrow night.
Although scoring production continues to be a sore spot for this depleted Oilers squad, it was the team’s physical play that was the hot topic this morning.
Jim Vandermeer, J-F Jacques and Theo Peckham
all engaged in first period fights with willing Blues combatants. Although energy in the building was high, Peckham was not pleased with the actions of Blues rookie Ryan Reaves following his bout.
"I yelled in the penalty box, 'show some class!’" Peckham said.
The melee was short-lived, as Peckham lost his balance and tumbled to the ice; prompting the linesmen to step in and break the men apart. With shots landed on both sides, the decision was a draw.
Reaves, on the other hand, saw things differently as he waved his hands en route to the penalty box. All things considered, an action that Peckham considered to be an act of belittlement between opponents.
"Doesn't matter how bad you beat up a guy. You see [Steve MacIntyre] beat guys up all the time and he skates straight to the penalty box. It's a common respect amongst players and I've never been the type to do that. If he wants to do that, that's his thing." THE HEAVYWEIGHT
Excluded in the opening period ruckus was heavyweight Steve MacIntyre, who was unable to find a willing dance partner throughout the evening. Head Coach Tom Renney was mum with his comments, but hinted that he wanted his tough guy to be more involved.
"First of all, he's got to play. He's got to show me that he can play the game and participate within the structure of a game plan. On my part, I have to deliver the opportunity. And I'm willing to do that."
"That being said, sometimes you've got to hunt your prey."
When asked if MacIntyre was too honorable in his approach, Renney was reserved in his criticism.
"Maybe. And others are, too."
With Vandermeer stepping up to battle with Cam Janssen, Renney believed to see a discrepancy in size that was carefully selected by the Blues forward.
"I would have picked a different opponent than Jimmy (Vandermeer) did last night. I would have said that we've got another guy on the bench that will dance with you."
Head Coach Tom Renney
With that said, Renney believes that MacIntyre needs to improve in the teachable areas before he can be allotted more ice-time on a regular basis.
"We have to make sure that Mac can function within the structure that we want to play," Renney said.
"We're starting with a pretty raw guy here who hasn't had a lot of opportunity prior to this year to be a player; and really hasn't yet either, quite honestly. I'm not going to pat myself on the back. I would like to deploy him more than I have. Those are my decisions and I'm fine with that."
MacIntyre agreed with his coach’s assessment, saying that his goal is to continually improve as he looks to make his on-ice contributions more valuable.
"I think long-term, that's my goal. Gradually get better every practice and to keep up with the guys and be able to get to my hits," MacIntyre said. "Not to be running around out of position, but being in the right place at the right time, and keeping my feet moving."
"That's part of being a big guy. It's a little tough to get going and get those pops, but that's something that we have to work on and I'm willing to put the work in. I have to go out there and be more assertive. I need to take the bull by the horns and run a few guys and set the tone that way."
For MacIntyre, balancing the line between that and his other, more common role has been an ongoing challenge, given the circumstances of today’s game.
"I've been in the minors for a long time and down there, there's a few more guys that are willing to go. That's their job and that's what they're there for. Here, it's a job but you have to be smart about it. With power-plays and penalty kills that teams have, they could very easily put you down one or two goals."
Renney appreciates MacIntyre’s devotion to his job, but further emphasized the need for an overall improvement.
"He will always be there for his teammates and his team from a physical point of view. We don't have to teach that. What I want to make sure of, and that was why I suggested my earlier comment, is that he gets a chance to be a player first; because he does some other stuff that you don't teach."
"We want to make sure that Steve gets the chance to continue to improve, and I believe he is improving," Renney concluded. PLAYING THE SPOILER
The Calgary Flames are next on the schedule as the season winds down. Calgary, who currently sits 10th in the NHL’s Western Conference standings, still has an opportunity to make the post-season with a miraculous late-season run. Edmonton is looking to end that hope Saturday night at Rexall Place.
"We're excited about that," Renney said.
"It's fun to be a part of the Battle of Alberta, regardless of each team's circumstance. It just has a life of its own, anyway. The fact of the matter is that Calgary still has an opportunity to make the playoffs and for us, that's motivation to do whatever we can to prevent that."
In order to accomplish that, the Oilers will need a stronger effort as the team looks to rebound from Thursday’s setback in St. Louis. Regardless of the circumstances, Edmonton’s bench boss is behind his group all the way.
"You should never, ever, underestimate yourself," Renney said.
"Even at this point in the season now with our lineup looking like it is, there are some really valuable lessons to be learned. Opportunity is there. This is our roster and you're going to play. That has opportunity written all over it." SINGLES STILL AVAILABLE
Limited single seats are still available for tomorrow night's game, so get yours now before they're gone! Click here to purchase tickets online