| OILERS PREP FOR RARE OPPONENT |
The Oilers skated on Saturday morning in preparation for Sunday's 6:00 p.m. game with the New Jersey Devils. The team will not skate on Sunday morning so this was their last chance to get ready.
"You get to watch them on TV, you don't get to play against them very often," said Tom Gilbert. "It's kind of hard to get a read on the players they have."
Gilbert did note that a team coached by Jacques Lemaire - as the Devils are - will not take a lot of chances.
"They're pretty passive, they wait for turnovers and the're a great defensive team. We have to focus on the way we play and limit our amount of turnovers."
One big offensive weapon the Devils have is Ilya Kovalchuk.
"You have to take away his time and space, have a good stick," remarked Ryan Whitney. "Once you let him get wheeling you're in trouble. You really want to pressure him, be tough on him."
Ladislav Smid spoke to the media for the first time since the announcement that neck surgery was going to end the blueliner's season.
"It reminds me of last season, missed last 15 games as well," said Smid. "I'm probably going to be out for three or four months. It's going to be hard to get back in shape but hopefully I'll be ready for next season."
Smid's issue is a bulging disc and the surgery required involves the removal of the disc and shaving it to make it smaller before reinserting.
"I'm a little bit nervous but I talked to the doctors and it's a pretty common surgery so I should recover."
Smid's injury just kept getting worse to the point where he requested an MRI coming out of the break. The MRI showed the bulge had gotten much bigger.
"My neck was always an issue but it wasn't as big of an issue for me. These past few months were tough. I tried to play through it but it got tougher."
JONES COMMENTS ON BOOGAARD
Ryan Jones also addressed the media after a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota's Derek Boogaard. The Wild enforcer was suspended two games for his actions.
"I didn't quite see it coming. It looks bad but nobody's going to mean to do those kinds of things," said Jones. "I know Boogie from the summer and talked to him this morning, it's just one of those things."
The Wild skated at Rexall Place this morning before departing for home. Jones, who trains in the off-season with Boogaard, walked by the 6'7" forward on his way to the Oilers room.
"He was walking by and I was on my way to get an MRI. He looked at me and I just shrugged. It happens, you don't want to be on either side of it but it still happens."
After the hit, Jones returned to the game and played out the remainder of the first period before getting pulled in the intermission.
"I really didn't want to come off. All the tests went well then Kenny (Lowe) saw it on the replay and said he wanted to check it again. It was a precautionary thing, he didn't want it to get any worse."
The game was a good early Rexall Place debut for Jones. He almost scored on one of his first few shifts with the puck just barely staying out and a video review confirming that fact.
"I thought our line was generating a lot of chances down low," he said. "Gags (Gagner) was behind the net, just threw it out and it went off my skate. It was sitting on the line for awhile."
As for a prognosis, it's still wait and see.
"We're still waiting for somebody to read it. I don't want to speculate. We'll let the doctors reveal that."
ON THE BLUELINE
With all the injuries and movement, Edmonton's new top defence pairing now consists of Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney.
"He's a really good player. He's solid and he's smart. He can move the puck. He jumps up into the play, as do I occassionally. So one of us has to move back," said Whitney of Gilbert.
Gilbert also enjoyed playing with his new defence partner.
"Last night was pretty good. i think we complement each other really well. He's a great puck mover, solid defensively and we read off each other pretty well," Gilbert remarked.
It was an interesting situation for Whitney as he was in town right before the Olympic Break with the Anaheim Ducks and participated in an on-ice Olympic send-off along with Oilers players and his Ducks teammates. Coming back to Rexall Place, Whitney was welcomed back along with the Olympic contingent - but this time as a member of the home team.
"It's pretty nice to be here. It's a great fan base and it's good to really be welcomed. It's much appreciated. It's a great rink and a great locker room. There's a bright future here, it's exciting."
Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com