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THE TEAM TODAY: Ryan Use This One

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers


St. Louis, MO - The Oilers' monster road trip continues with a stop in St. Louis.

The team immediately departed Buffalo following Tuesday night's 4-3 loss and arrived in The Gateway City late last night. On the heels of back-to-back outings, the Oilers elected to skip their schedule on-ice session in favour of an off-ice workout at the team's hotel.

As has been a common refrain for the team over the past few weeks, Oilers head coach Tom Renney felt the the team deserved more than the zero points in the standings they received last night.

"I thought we played well. If there ever is such a thing as a bitter fate that was the case last night. Coming off a strong performance against Chicago, you never know what to expect from your team the next night," Renney began.

"Certainly, it speaks to our character and our ability to go after wins and play anybody. We have to continue to embrace that if we're going to try and get back into this playoff race."


Recent call-ups Josh Green and Teemu Hartikainen had a tough go of it on Tuesday. Green was a -4 and Hartikainen was a -3.

"You can look at numbers and identify with a tough night," said Renney. "But they were part of a group of guys that really went after a hockey game last night and really went after two points."

For Hartikainen, it was his fourth game in four nights in four different cities. He suited up for the Barons in Oklahoma City on New Year's Eve against San Antonio then travelled to Houston the following night before joining the Oilers for their games in Chicago and Buffalo.

"You can't help but think the guy's tired," Renney said of Hartikainen. "But at the same time, you try to give him minutes and an opportunity to play -- and impact our game with his physical presence. Those are tools that you have in your tool box. You use those."

"You've got to find your way when you play a lot. Sometimes take it easy in some places," said Hartikainen, pointing you that he's still trying to make the most of the opportunity despite difficult circumstances.

"It means a second chance for me. I could be playing better but, like I said, I played a few games in Oklahoma and a lot of minutes in those games. I'm going to get my rest today then get my legs going. You're going to see a whole different Teemu Hartikainen (tomorrow)."

Green played down the middle with Horcoff and Hartikainen. The Oilers captain being on the left side hinted to some discomfort as Renney noted he was physically unable to take draws last night. He did take one, winning against Paul Gaustad.

However, Green did acquit himself well, going 63% in the dot.

"He did a great job on the dot and certainly his presence up the middle helped us," said Renney.


Both Renney and Jordan Eberle have some great memories from their time spent in the World Junior Hockey Championship and on the heels of last night's thrilling 6-5 Canadian semifinal loss to the Russians, they did some reflecting.

Renney was coach of the Canadian side in both 1992 and 1999 -- coming up with the Silver Medal in the '99 Winnipeg tournament.

"(1999) in Winnipeg. A great hockey city. It was a great tournament for us. It was one of those times you don't get the pick of the litter -- we had seven or eight eligible players not with us as Canada has every year," said Renney.

"We found a way to build a tournament and accept that responsibility of being Canada's team for a couple of weeks. Roberto (Luongo) was the cornerstone with a real good back-end and good forwards that have done some things in the National Hockey League as well."

The Canadian team that year lost out to Russia in overtime of the Gold Medal Game. By contrast, in 1992, Canada finished in 6th place.

"It's always a great experience and Germany (in 1992) was the 180 to that. It was a real important experience for Hockey Canada. I think it helped everyone to sharpen their pencil after that."

Eberle's two tournaments were also very different, winning Gold in 2009 thanks in large part to his last-second heroics against the Russians.

"When we played the Russians, we would score then they would come back with another one. They buried one with about four minutes to go to take the lead and we battled back. The rest is history," said Eberle. "We had a great tournament. We didn't play our best hockey until the final. Taking the Russians to overtime was the turning point then we buried Sweden (in the Gold Medal Game)."

Canada tried to come back once again in 2010 against the Americans -- both Eberle and Taylor Hall were on that team -- but they were just short, losing in overtime of the Gold Medal Game.

"That was a crazy game. The Americans were a fast team. We found a way to tie it and overtime four-on-four is tough. You give up an odd-man rush like we did and they come in and score."

Canada has gone without Gold for three years now. A fact that doesn't surprise Eberle, given the nature of the tournament.

"It's not an easy tournament, it's like the Super Bowl," Eberle remarked. "You get one game and if you lose, you're done. Especially when you do it on your home soil, it's tougher."


At the end of his availability, Renney talked briefly about the status of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

"I'm not sure what we're going to do with him. I have to check with (trainer) T.D. (Forss) here. He's feeling better but I don't see him playing on the rest of this trip."

-- Marc Ciampa,


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