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.
After Jeff Deslauriers earned the start in Edmonton's two games earlier this week, Devan Dubnyk moves back between the pipes for tonight's game. The Calgary native will perform in front of family and friends at the Saddledome, but he is trying not to get caught up in the excitement of making his home NHL debut.
"It's going to be a lot of fun. More so, I'll probably look back after the game and think that it was a lot of fun."
Something's gotta give
The level of fun will likely depend on the outcome of tonight's contest. The Oilers and Flames carry a combined 21 consecutive losses into tonight's game, and both clubs are eager to put an end to their respective streaks.
"I can't say that I follow closely exactly what's going on with Calgary, but they're going through tough times and everybody knows we have been struggling to find ways to be good -- never mind win a game, we want to be good," Head Coach Pat Quinn said after the morning skate.
"That's a good team down the hall that had success and now it's not happening for them. This is a good bunch here, learning how to be better, and good things haven't happened for it."
Dubnyk added that it's best not to think about streaks and numbers on gameday.
"The game starts at 0-0 for everybody, so that's pretty much all you can do to try to break out. If you start thinking that you don't want to get your 13th in a row or whatever, it's not going to help. It's just going to add to the pressure.
"The only way you're going to get out of it is get back to work the next game," he said. "It's easy to let the pressure build after each loss and the only thing you can do is just start over."
For their part, the Flames are also taking things game-by-game.
"We've been approaching every game lately like you have to win, and this is no different," Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester said. "Until you start winning some games and get out of this, every game's just more important than the last one.
"[The Oilers are] kind of in the same boat, so that's a dangerous opponent when you haven't been having some success."
FLAMES 6 - OILERS 1
The Edmonton Oilers fell to their provincial rivals 6-1 on Hockey Day in Canada Saturday Night. Jarome Iginla scored twice to lead the Flames to the win.
The Oilers held a team meeting at Rexall Place Friday morning and you can bet one of the topics of discussion was the upcoming Battle of Alberta in Calgary Saturday night.
"There's always something special when it comes to Calgary and Edmonton, there's no question about that, and we have every intention of going into that rink and getting a win," Associate Coach Tom Renney said after the meeting.
"We have to go into the rink in Calgary and recognize that we'll do whatever it takes to win. And the bottom line is that we want the two points there and we want to make sure that we make a statement on behalf of ourselves."
That statement surely involves breaking the club's current 12-game losing streak and extending Calgary's slump into the double digits. The Oilers and Flames have gone a combined 21 games without a win, and something will have to break Saturday.
"I don't think it's a position that either organization wants to be in," veteran forward Shawn Horcoff said. "For us, it's another game to get back to winning ways, and it probably comes at a good time for us, a good challenging game against our biggest rival."
Jason Strudwick added that although the Oilers are aware of the Flames' recent struggles, they're focused on their own situation.
"To be honest, I'm not too worried about what really is the problem with Calgary -- it has nothing to do with our situation," Strudwick said. "They are ahead of us in the standings, and anytime you can try to push another team down you want to try.
"For us, it's not where we expected to be. I can say that as an individual, I didn't anticipate being in this position, and really when you look at it, it's only us that carry the responsibility for where we're at."
The Oilers will head back north after Saturday's game and will get ready to host former teammate Erik Cole and the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night