The Oilers held a full team practice at Rexall Place Tuesday, and a familiar face was back on the ice. For the first time since suffering a concussion January 20 vs. Vancouver, Ladislav Smid donned a maroon "don't hit me" jersey and took to the ice with his teammates.
"I felt pretty good," the defenceman said after practice. "Of course I have to catch up a little bit with conditioning before I'm going to be back in the games, but it felt okay. It's going to help me mentally as well. It was really good to feel the puck on the stick after almost two weeks."
Smid confirmed that it "always sucks to get hit on the head," but he couldn't confirm when he'll be back in the line-up.
"Maybe in a couple days. Maybe three days, four days -- you never know. But I want to be back as soon as possible. I really miss that."
ANDREW MOVES UP
Another notable change on the ice at practice was Andrew Cogliano's presence on the top line with Dustin Penner and Sam Gagner. In Monday night's win over Carolina, Cogliano skated with Gilbert Brule and Patrick O'Sullivan. The trio netted four points in the game, and the speedy forward said he felt comfortable with his linemates.
"I thought we all got pretty good speed, we were on attack all night, and we did a good job of just hounding pucks and creating the forecheck," recalled Cogliano. "I thought it was a really good line, really effective."
Cogliano's promotion resulted in a demotion for Robert Nilsson, who skated with Fernando Pisani and Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger during practice.
The remaining Oilers lines during practice were as follows: - Ryan Potulny - Gilbert Brule - Patrick O'Sullivan - Zack Stortini - Marc Pouliot - Jean-Francois Jacques - Ethan Moreau - Shawn Horcoff - Mike Comrie
PATRICK GOES PINK
After practice, O'Sullivan headed to downtown Edmonton's Eveline Charles Academy to help kick off the Hair Massacure cancer fundraiser. O'Sullivan got his hair bleached, dyed bright pink, and then shaved in support of the Stollery Children's Hospital and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Photos of the event will be posted soon, while a video of Patrick's pink transformation will be featured on an upcoming episode of The Link.
Until then, follow the link below to pledge your support for Patrick and the great cause!
Approximately 15 Oilers took to the ice for an optional morning skate Monday. Goalie Devan Dubnyk was the first player out and one of the last players off, meaning Jeff Deslauriers is expected to get the start tonight vs. Carolina.
As far as skaters go, Head Coach Pat Quinn confirmed that Mike Comrie and Zack Stortini will move back into the line-up tonight.
Marc Pouliot and Jean-Francois Jacques were both among the last players to leave the ice, but Quinn wouldn't confirm if they will be scratched. "The decision is still being mulled over," he said.
Surgery likely for Souray
One player who won't be in the line-up tonight is defenceman Sheldon Souray. Souray suffered a broken hand in a fight with Jarome Iginla Saturday night in Calgary, and Quinn said that the team will know more following a medical assessment Tuesday.
"He sees the physicians tomorrow with regards to how they're going to approach it. From my understanding, it's going to require some surgery." Alex a go
With Souray out, the Oilers recalled Alex Plante from the AHL's Springfield Falcons Sunday evening. Plante will make his NHL debut tonight.
"I'm thrilled to get this opportunity, to come play at home in Edmonton," the 20 year old said after morning skate. "It's something that I've always dreamed about trying to get to this level, and hopefully I can learn as much as possible so eventually I can try to stay here."
Although Plante is a "raw rookie," Quinn emphasized that the young defenceman won't spend the game observing from the bench.
"We brought him to play," Quinn said. "We don't want to scare him right off the bat, but we certainly want to give him the opportunity to show what he's learned to this point and how he's improved."
Plante's focus is to play a simple game and soak up the experience.
"Being simple is obviously a huge thing, especially for the first game. Just shake the nerves out a little bit. Mostly everybody said to have fun. That's something everybody wants to do and I'm going to try to enjoy and take in as much as possible and try to learn as much as possible as well."
OILERS 4 - HURRICANES 2
Despite surrendering the first goal of the game and 15 shots in the final period, the Oilers weathered the Hurricanes and earned a 4-2 win Monday night. The victory ended a 13-game losing streak for the Oilers and marked the club's first win of 2010.
On a day that coaches had originally marked as an off-day, the Oilers held a full team practice Sunday afternoon at Rexall Place. Jean-Francois Jacques was not present, and -- to nobody's surprise -- neither was Sheldon Souray.
In the third period of Saturday night's game in Calgary, Souray dropped his gloves vs. Flames captain Jarome Iginla and injured his hand in the fight. The Oilers have not made an official statement about the injury but teammates are praising the veteran's commitment to the team and passion for the game.
"It's his way of showing his teammates how much he cares and he's trying to make an impact on a game that was out of reach for us," captain Ethan Moreau said after practice. "That's what he's done his whole career: he finds a way to show how proud he is as a guy and as a teammate. It's unfortunate what happened but that also is why he's so valuable."
Fernando Pisani agrees.
"He's a guy that plays hard and physical and obviously he's going to be a big loss to us. But it's one of those things, I guess, that happens that you have to deal with and kind of move on."
'ICING ON THE CAKE'
Souray's injury is the latest on a team that seems to be cursed with concussions, the flu, and season-ending injuries to top contributors like Ales Hemsky and Nikolai Khabibulin.
"The 'icing on the cake' is the best way to put it," fellow defenceman Tom Gilbert said after practice, "But how tall is the cake?"
The Oilers have already missed 306 man games due to injury or illness this season. Defencemen Ladislav Smid and Steve Staios are currently out of the line-up with concussions, with call-up Taylor Chorney filling one of those positions.
Later Sunday evening, the Oilers added AHL defenceman Alex Plante to their line-up.
"We've got Staios and Smid out now, and with Souray going out -- who's generally considered your biggest guy on the defensive side -- that's too many NHLers to have out," Head Coach Pat Quinn said. "But that's what it is. It's not about who's not in the line-up, it's who's in the line-up and what we can do with that."
"It obviously hasn't been an ideal situation for us this year with injuries, illnesses and so on," Pisani added. "It's been a frustrating and tough road so far but there's nothing we can do about it and just have to keep on playing hard and focusing on tomorrow's game."
Staying positive and focusing on the task at hand is challenging, Gilbert said, but it's what has to be done.
"You try to find answers, you try to work through it. It's different scenarios every time, and all you can do is keep coming here trying to stay positive, try to find some fun and just keep battling through it."
'CANES COME TO TOWN
The battle continues Monday when the Carolina Hurricanes roll into Edmonton. Off the ice, competition will also be heated as the Oilers Favourite Things charity auction continues on the Rexall Place Concourse.