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The Team Today: Smid, Staios nearly ready

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


The Oilers skated on Friday afternoon at the Joy Burns Arena at the University of Denver in preparation for Saturday night's clash with the Colorado Avalanche.

The lines the team went with were the same as last night in Minnesota:

Cogliano - Gagner - Penner
O'Sullivan - Potulny - Comrie
Moreau - Horcoff - Pisani
Jacques - Pouliot - Stortini

Grebeshkov - Gilbert
Chorney - Visnovsky
Strudwick - Plante

Gilbert Brule and Robert Nilsson skated on a line with Kelly Buchberger as the odd men out.

"Gilbert is another one of our guys like we've had all season long," Oilers head coach Pat Quinn commented. "One of the reasons we had Pisani out of the lineup is he looked like he'd dropped off in his ability to be intense."

Brule's performance against the Flyers was what had Quinn decide to put him up in the press box.

"Gilbert, who had missed a bunch of time with illnesses, had a game where he didn't appear to be in it mentally. Lots of positional errors."


Steve Staios and Ladislav Smid also both skated with the team as the two blueliners inched closer to a return.

"I feel good," said Staios after practice. "I feel comfortable with where I'm at."

Prior to the start of practice, the Oilers skated both Smid and Staios hard to see if they're ready physically to make that return to the lineup. With the amount of time both have missed, conditioning becomes the biggest factor in whether they make it back in or not.

"I didn't feel good right after that skate, it was pretty difficult," Staios noted. "And the altitude made it more difficult."

"I'm pretty sure I'm ready to play, it's up to the coaches. Me and Stevie have been working pretty hard the last four or five days and I feel like I'm really close to playing," Smid remarked.

Smid also remarked that the conditioning tests over the past few days, and particularly today, have been tiring.

"Right now I feel really tired after the test but we battled through it," he said.

Their return to the lineup will be a hot topic among the coaches as they lay out their plans for tomorrow.

"We're going to talk about it today. Their drop-off scores (fatigue test) are very much improved over what they have been. We'll talk about the possibility of one or both coming into the lineup tomorrow."

"They were fatigued at the end of only a 35-minute practice," Quinn cautioned.

Author: Marc Ciampa with files from Steve Taylor & Bob Stauffer


After arriving in Minnesota at 4:10 a.m. central time, the Oilers spent the morning in recovery mode.

The team had a brief media availability in the late morning and Associate Coach Tom Renney wanted to make sure the lack of rest wasn't used as an excuse by anyone.

"There's a scheduled game tonight, period. It doesn't matter where you're coming from or going to," noted Renney.

After being asked if any similar sort of scenario would exist for a team in the Eastern Conference, Renney said no but did talk about some of his past experiences with travel.

"It reminds me of my old National Team days where we'd travel through the night then play at 6:00 p.m. the next day."

Despite the lack of rest and no morning skate, it's expected everyone will be ready to go at the drop of the puck this evening.

"It's up to the players to circle the wagons and get on that same wavelength and get really prepared emotionally for the game itself."

Ryan Potulny agreed with the Associate Coach and doesn't feel the late arrival will be an issue.

"Hey, we're pro athletes it's our job to get ready to play tonight," said Potulny.

Josh Harding gets the start in goal tonight for the Wild.


It's been 11 games since the Oilers won a game at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, being outscored 39-12 in that stretch. Renney feels that streak has gone on long enough.

"It's a team that we should beat, and should learn how to beat in their rink," he said.

Former Oiler and current Wild Kyle Brodziak recalls being on one side of that battle and now on the other.

"I remember when I was an Oiler I hated coming into this building. We could never find a way to win no matter how well we played."

"I think it's important we got on them early and get the doubt in their head as early as we can."


The Oilers come into tonight's game with two straight wins for the first time since winning five in a row back in early December.

"I think we've seen this coming. I think giving Shawn (Horcoff) and his linemates a shutdown job that sees them on the ice in a significant role for significant minutes has helped," said Renney.

"The team has had more confidence (after winning the last two games)," said Lubomir Visnovsky. "We will see, tonight is the start of (five) road games. We started winning the home games now we need to start on the road."


Ryan Potulny, last night's last-second hero, returns to the place where he played college hockey at the University of Minnesota.

"I've got a lot of memories here from college and I come back here in the summertime," he said. "I usually have a lot of family at the game so that's good too."


A tired Edmonton squad skated with Minnesota for the majority of the game but a pair of late Wild goals gave Minnesota the 4-2 victory.

Author: Marc Ciampa with files from Steve Taylor & Bob Stauffer



The Oilers held an optional morning skate Wednesday, with only about 15 skaters taking to the ice. Among them was Steve Staios, who donned a maroon "no contact" jersey for his first team practice since suffering a concussion January 16 in San Jose.

Staios will not play tonight vs. Philadelphia and has no timeline for his return.

"I honestly haven't looked at the schedule," he said after the skate. "I've really been focused on how I was feeling and coming to the rink and doing everything I can to get ready.

"There's a couple of skating tests that I have to get through, one that I did today that I was close on, and I know that that will improve over the next few days, and then I'll go from there."

Healthy scratches

Joining Staios as players who were at the morning skate but will not play tonight are Robert Nilsson and Fernando Pisani. The game will mark Pisani's second consecutive as a healthy scratch, and Head Coach Pat Quinn explained that "it's about maintaining a level of intensity."

"I pulled him out because I didn't think that he was playing with energy," Quinn said. "I haven't spoken to him about it necessarily, but to me it's just part of his recovery (from ulcerative colitis).

"When we were using them (Pisani, Ethan Moreau & Shawn Horcoff) as a checking unit, they were logging lots of time going out against the opposition's best lines. So that kept the minutes up, but if you're not right on top of your physical game, then the quality of play comes down."

Potulny faces former teammates

Ryan Potulny was the other Oilers forward to miss Monday's game vs. Carolina, due to flu-like symptoms, but the 25-year-old will be back in the line-up tonight to face his former teammates.

Potulny played 44 games with the Flyers from 2005 to 2008, and he has fond memories of those seasons as a rookie.

"It was fun playing there. It's a good organization -- they take care of the players pretty well, much like here," Potulny recalled. "My first year with the Flyers was my first year in the league. You don't know what to expect as much. I'm getting a better role to play here with Edmonton. I'm playing a lot more than I did in Philly my first year, and I'm more of a pro. I've learned the ropes a little bit, I've been around a while now with my fourth year, so I've figured things out a little bit better so it's easier to make the transition.

"They're going to be a hardworking team and we're going to have our hands full, but I think we're ready for it."

Associate Coach Tom Renney agreed.

"These guys play one way and one way only, and they have forever, and that's 100 miles an hour, north-south," he said. "I think it's going to expose some character, if you will, and I think it will help others to provide more of it. We have to compete right from the get go, there's no question about that."

Starting goalie Jeff Deslauriers added that the Oilers need to build on Monday's success with a solid effort tonight.

"We know Philly is a pretty good team, a pretty skilled team too, and they're going to come hard, so if we want the game we're going to have to work harder than them," he said. "It's going to be the same thing as last game. I think we played a good game against Carolina and we have to bring back that work ethic in the game tonight."


Former Flyer Ryan Potulny scored a goal with 16 seconds left to break the ice and lift Edmonton to its second consecutive victory.

Author: Jen Sharpe |


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."


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


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!
After getting his hair bleached and dyed pink, Patrick O'Sullivan gets a shave during the Hair Massacure at Eveline Charles Academy in downtown Edmonton, AB.

Author: Jen Sharpe |
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