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THE TEAM TODAY: Sick Bay Report

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers followed up Tuesday's loss to Minnesota with an hour-long practice at Rexall Place late Wednesday morning.

Like during the previous morning skate, a number of injured players participated in the drills, including Shawn Horcoff, Jim Vandermeer, and Gilbert Brule.

To assess whether a player is ready to rejoin the line-up, head coach Tom Renney administers a custom on-ice fitness test.

"[It's] just trying to mimic shifts, shift lengths, recovery period, work-to-rest ratio, and what the drop-off was with respect to that, and if in fact the player was ready to integrate back into a four-line rotation or three-pair rotation with the necessary rest and recovery," the coach explained.

"If I'm racing for the puck and I'm at the tail end of a shift and I'm not fit, I'm going to get run into the boards, something's going to happen, or they're going to get the puck and go score a goal. So it's protecting everybody."

"He's got to pass my test," Renney added. "My test is the last thing we do to make sure a player's ready to play."

Prior to practice, Horcoff passed the test. After missing 18 games with a knee injury, the Oilers captain will dress Thursday night vs. Dallas.

"Tom always has a couple protocols that he puts the guys through to make sure that he's comfortable with where their fitness level is, and it went really good today. It felt good during practice after that and I'm ready to go," Horcoff said.

The veteran centerman has been skating with the team for over a week and is eager to rejoin them in competition.

"It's been tough, it always is," he said. "You feel bad, you want to be out there, you want to help the guys, especially when they're going through what they have been lately here, with their struggles and that.

"But we're not far off. We're right there, and I think we're going to start getting healthy here and start getting some bodies back and hopefully that will put us over the edge."


Ales Hemsky

Although Vandermeer, Brule, and Jordan Eberle are not far behind Horcoff on the road to recovery, the news from sick bay isn't all positive. Tuesday night vs. Minnesota, All Star Ales Hemsky suffered a concussion and was unable to complete the game.

View Oilers Injury Report

The winger underwent an MRI early this afternoon, but Renney didn't have much information to pass on to the media.

"We think it's a concussion and I don't think MRI is going to disclose a whole lot, to be honest with you," the coach said. "The thing is, we don't know how long it's going to be either. It could be a couple days, it could be a week, it could be longer than that. We're not sure."

Another player who is questionable for tomorrow's game is Devan Dubnyk. The young goaltender was feeling the effects of the flu last night vs. the Wild, and although he technically backed up starter Nikolai Khabibulin, he was kept off the bench to protect the rest of the team from illness.

Dubnyk did not participate in practice today; instead, Edmonton's former video coach, Brian Ross, filled in at one end of the ice.


Despite the loss of Hemsky and the loss to Minnesota, the Oilers are trying to stay positive and focused heading into their next challenge.

"We had a bad start yesterday, and as far as our record lately, I think it's not indicative of the way we've been playing," Dustin Penner said. "We've been in a lot of one-goal games. A lot of those games have been within our grasp to win, whether it's the power-play that hasn't been scoring or unlucky bounces, we just seem to be able to lose games that maybe we shouldn't. And it's not for lack of effort or trying."


You can catch Horcoff's return to the line-up live from Rexall Place when the Oilers take on the Stars Thursday, Jan. 19. Single and standing tickets are still available.



Theo Peckham

In the latest edition of our fan question series, John Simmer of Toronto submitted a question for Theo Peckham.

JOHN: "Who has helped you the most in your hockey career?"

THEO: "Probably a couple people. My mom and, actually, my agent (Bill Markle). He came to see me play in a prospects tournament when I was 15, and ever since then he's kind of been helping me out a little bit. He's been a big part of who I am today."

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: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Tom Gazzola



Following an 11-day absence, the Oilers returned to Rexall Place for morning skate Tuesday to prepare for their evening game vs. the Minnesota Wild.

Three injured skaters participated in the drills: Shawn Horcoff (knee), Gilbert Brule (ankle), and Jim Vandermeer (ankle). The trio are listed day-to-day with no concrete timeline for return.

Horcoff, who has been sidelined since December 7, is nearly ready to rejoin the team.

"I've skated with the team now for about a week or so, 10 days or so, and it's feeling really good so hopefully soon," he said. "I don't really feel too much pain, it's just a matter of trying to get all the strength back and the conditioning back and I feel like I'm really close."

Another forward who is on the road to recovery is Jordan Eberle. After suffering an ankle injury New Year's Day vs. Calgary and undergoing an appendectomy a few days later, the talented rookie returned to the ice while the team was away.

It's his ankle, not his abdomen, that needs some more time to heal.

"My stomach is back to normal, it's been good for a few days now, so just kind of taking care of my foot," he said. "Ever since I kind of fell awkwardly, it's kind of been nagging. So I think the biggest key is trying to make sure that when I come back, I don't re-injure it and have it nag for the rest of my career."

About the appendectomy, Eberle said the assessment and recovery was quick.

"I just woke up in the morning. My stomach was killing me, I had some really bad stomach pain, came here, checked it out and they said 'You've got to go to the hospital to check it out.' They kind of poked around and said I had appendicitis and had to get it removed right away.

"It's actually a really quick procedure the way they do it," he added. "They get it out right away and, like I said, I'm pretty much back to normal. It was a pretty quick rehab."


Unfortunately, Eberle and Horcoff won't be able to contribute where the Oilers are most in need: the power-play. The club has gone without a power-play goal in their last 37 man-advantages, a streak that everyone is eager to stop.

"It's pretty frustrating," Kurtis Foster said. "As an athlete, you kind of try to talk about the process all the time, make sure the process is right and not to worry about the results, but at the end of the day, when the results aren't coming at all, it's tough to take.

"I think everyone needs to realize that it's a privilege to be on the power-play, and when we're out there, we've got to make sure we out-work the opposition and if we do that, usually good things will happen."

Confidence is key, according to head coach Tom Renney.

"I'm not happy with it of course, but neither are the guys. It's a function of being confident with it, going back and getting your puck and coming out confident, together, and staying organized," he said. "In the offensive zone, move it quick, get it to the net, funnel down to the net, stick around the net, pound it back at it."


Despite outshooting their opponent 32-26, Edmonton dropped a Wild one Tuesday night, resulting in a 4-1 loss to Minnesota. The home team's only goal, a third-period man-advantage marker from Magnus Paajarvi, not only got the club on the scoreboard but also concluded a lengthy 11-game power-play drought for the Oil.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Tom Gazzola & Bob Stauffer



Due to the early start for Sunday's game, the Oilers opted out of a morning skate and instead held a team meeting and addressed the media at the hotel.

Following Saturday's disappointing 5-2 loss in Los Angeles, the topic du jour was how to prevent a repeat performance and close out the five-game road trip with a win in Anaheim.

Fans might see some changes to Edmonton's line-up tonight, but head coach Tom Renney was mum about the details.

"I'm looking at some injury possibilities too that will reflect to a point, I think, on what the line-up might look like," he hinted. "If everybody's healthy, there's still some chance that we'll make a change or two."

In net, Nikolai Khabibulin will be back between the pipes after Devan Dubnyk started the past two games.

"You always need your goaltenders to come up big on certain nights, and certainly with us, probably more often than any goalie would like," the coach admitted. "But that's a function of our team right now. We need that type of goaltending, and we believe he (Khabibulin) can deliver on it."


In front of Khabibulin, the Oilers are looking for some improved offensive contributions, especially on the power-play. The club was unsuccessful in five man-advantages last night vs. the Kings, bringing their power-play drought to 32 opportunities over 10 games. The last time Edmonton scored on the power-play was Dec. 23 in Los Angeles.

The solution is simple, according to Renney.

"The bottom line is get it to the net. I think that's a function of any team that's looking to simplify things, that is the end product."

A strong power-play and penalty kill will be key in tonight's game, the coach added.

"Specialty teams will be big, really big for us. I think we've got to make sure that this team we're playing tonight realizes that we came to play tonight right from the drop of the puck, and that manifests itself in a number of different ways.

"Beyond that, we have to play a game that shows a responsibility to the puck, to your teammates, and quite honestly the organization."

Defenceman Tom Gilbert expects a physical fight.

"They've got real big forwards, so they're always going to finish their checks regardless of who it is. They get the puck deep, they're a fast team, they'll get on there in the forecheck, so for us it's about getting that puck moving as quick as we can up the ice and just avoid turnovers."


After finding themselves down 3-0 to the Ducks late in the second period, linemates Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner scored two quick goals to get the Oilers back within striking distance. A game-ending power-play couldn't seal the deal, however, and Edmonton suffered a 3-2 loss in Anaheim Sunday night.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Bob Stauffer


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