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THE TEAM TODAY: The Hemsky Story

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers


Leduc, AB - For the second straight day, the Edmonton Oilers practiced in Leduc only this time they immediately departed for the remainder of their road trip after practice concluded.

The story of the day was Ales Hemsky, who skated in a non-contact jersey after taking yesterday off.

"Day to day, I don't know yet, we'll see how he does tomorrow morning in our morning skate and just get some feedback from him and go from there," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney of Hemsky's status. "I think everyday's got a little bit better so hopefully that's a good sign that it's sooner rather than later"

Hemsky reiterated his coach's comments. 

"I'm feeling a little better, it's not 100% I still have some symptoms I don't really like but finally I feel better in the practice so it's coming," said Hemsky.

"I just got an infection in my sinus and I'm losing my balance, and I don't see straight sometimes. I skated in Vancouver and couldn't see on the ice once I got going, it's not pleasant"

The Czech winger has had a tough go of it this season, starting the season on the injured list with some shoulder pain. He has also had trouble finding his groove offensively.

"I think he's worked, I think he's tried to make things happen, I think he gets frustrated, I think sometimes he plays outside of what we need from any player, but certainly Ales having the ability that he does, and the experience he has, he gets frustrated and that gets in the way as much as anything right now." noted the head coach. He also discussed the idea that Hemsky may be pushing too hard in frustration.

"It's a personality thing at the end of the day and an attitudinal thing at the end of the day and I know Ales is a competitor, and I know he's got great character and he's played through a lot of things in this organization, and he continues to now."

Renney added that the team really needs secondary scoring right now, a point Hemsky is well aware of.

"I'm not hiding behind anything. Nobody said after the surgeries it would be easy to come back, maybe I came to early in the season and I may need to step back. It's not easy but now I'm feeling much better with my shoulder and everything so I can't wait to play again and I think I'll be better," Hemsky continued.

"My shoulder is fine now, I can do pretty much everything now."


The Oilers called up Colten Teubert this morning. He will meet the team in Minnesota... Coach Renney remarked that Ryan Whitney likely won't start skating again for a few more days but he'll be travelling with the team. Renney pegged Whitney for the middle of the trip as a potential return to action.

-- Marc Ciampa,


Leduc, AB - Following a loss in Vancouver on Boxing Day to kick off a seven-game road swing, the Edmonton Oilers immediately returned home. 

With the World Juniors taking up both their home ice at Rexall Place and their usual practice facility in Sherwood Park -- Millennium Place -- the club practiced in Leduc today and will do so again tomorrow before departing for Minnesota and beginning the remaining six games on their road trip.

In terms of forwards, the team ran the same lines as last night's game. Ryan Whitney, Ales Hemsky and Alex Plante all did not skate.

Renney noted that both Whitney and Hemsky are improving and Hemsky will skate tomorrow morning to test his balance after a sinus infection has continued to cause him dizziness.

The Oilers head coach made a point of saying that the team can't use injuries as an excuse for poor performance.

"We've gotta step up and deal with it, control our own destiny. 30 teams have 82 opportunities to control the game and control their destiny, we're no different. No one is going to feel sorry for us, so lets not start on ourselves. Let's keep plowing ahead."


This season has been a constant source of frustration for Ryan Whitney. It has taken him a long time to get his strength back after surgery on his ankle.

"I had a really uncommon injury last year, and the surgery obviously, it went well as a success but it still doesn't happen very often so there's obviously some question marks but I had an MRI and the surgery looks good but my ankle is just so weak right now and because of that it's pretty unstable and tough to skate," said the Oilers blueliner, noting that a full recovery is still expected at some point.

"They seem to think it'll definitely happen so that's a good sign but until that stops my foot will always fall in and that puts pressure on that tendon that causes tendonitis," he continued. "The unfortunate thing for me is i haven't been able to skate, i don't feel right out there"

Renney made a point of saying how important Whitney is to the team but also how important it is for him to be 100% -- or at the very least healthier at this point.

"We'll get him over this little hurdle here and get him back in because we need him," stated the coach. 

When asked what he'll miss most about Whitney, the list was long for Renney.

"Great passer, great view finder, great scope to the game so he can move it where it has to go, he's got a calm demeanour on the ice, helps settle us down. I like it when he jumps and joins the attack, I like him in the offensive zone for threading the needle and getting pucks where they need to go, I like his mobility and range and passing (plus) the shot on the power play."

Whitney added that he will be 100% at some point but it may not be for awhile.

"I'm not losing hope by any means, it's just physically and mentally kind of draining," he said. "I can play through it, I don't see really a time soon when i'll be 100%"


A day after Dale Weise hammered Oilers defenceman Alex Plante, word coming down from the League is that there will be no supplemental discipline for the Canuck.

The official word on Plante is that he does have a concussion and is out indefinitely as a result. His teammate, Andy Sutton, had a few words about the play.

"If you can't hit a guy straight and if you can't hit a guy when he turns his back then we gotta define the lines a little bit," said Sutton. "We need to have a committee that's deciding these things. It's gotta be a whole group of people because there's so many discrepancies in each hit you gotta come up with a new system"

Sutton is no stranger to suspensions with both a five-gamer and an eight-gamer this season -- the latter of which he will be done serving after Thursday night's game.

"It's a man's game, it's a fast game and the guys are so much stronger than they were 15 years ago. It's a warriors game and we've gotta make sure the lines are definitive or we're going to lose the integrity of our game."                                                    .

-- Marc Ciampa,


1. Andrew Ebbett, VAN
3. Alex Burrows, VAN
With the loss, the Oilers record falls to 15-17-3 and they remain in 13th spot in the Western Conference.
The Oilers continue their seven-game road jaunt Thursday when they visit the Minnesota Wild. Game time is 6:00 p.m. MST and it can be seen on Sportsnet West.
The Vancouver Canucks raced out to a 3-0 lead then held on as the Edmonton Oilers attempted a valiant comeback on Boxing Day at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Monday night. Jordan Eberle, Corey Potter and Ryan Smyth got the goals for the Oilers in the defeat.


Vancouver, BC - After a short three-day rest, the Edmonton Oilers get back to action tonight when they take on the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in their annual Boxing Day clash.

The Oilers last played on December 22nd, a spirited effort in a 4-1 victory at Rexall Place over the Minnesota Wild. Vancouver comes into tonight's game having gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 but dropped a 3-1 decision on home ice to the Calgary Flames on December 23.

Given that the Canucks lost their last game in less-than-inspiring fashion they will certainly be amped up for a big win tonight to close out their four-game homestand but the Oilers are not simply going to roll over.

"We're not coming in here with a hat in our hand, we're coming in to win a hockey game," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "We need to be real smart here and do everything we can to stay out of the penalty box and still be firm and decisive in our own game, naturally."

This morning, the Oilers called up Alex Plante from Oklahoma City - a move made all the more convenient by the fact Plante was spending the holidays with his family in Brandon, Manitoba. The reason for the call-up was the fact that Ryan Whitney has been suffering from tendinitis in his ankle.

"It's weak and we're going to do the precautionary thing. There's no real structural damage but we're going to rest him tonight, he won't go," said Renney, adding that Whitney is likely to play Thursday as that gives him a full week of rest for his ankle.

While Whitney is with the team, he did not take the morning skate. Ales Hemsky took the morning skate but left a little early. His sinus infection has him pronounced as doubtful.

"He's having some dizziness. As you elevate the heart rate that becomes more clear so it doesn't look like he's going to go, either," Renney remarked.


With the World Juniors taking over Edmonton for the next little while, the Oilers have been pushed out on the road for the next seven games starting tonight.

With the team as of right now seven points out of a playoff spot, this is a stretch that could make or break the season.

"The upcoming trip can be the turnaround in our season. We believe in this group and we're going to do everything we can to get those wins," said Eric Belanger.

Sam Gagner remarked that the team was skating really well in the morning skate, hinting it could have been due to the recent time off.

"It's nice to get a couple days off to spend with the family and recharge," he said.


Tonight marks a homecoming for Oilers rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the Burnaby native steps on the ice in Vancouver for the first time in his NHL career for a regular season game.

"I've watched tons of games on TV from here as a kid. I'm pretty excited to step on the ice tonight," said Nugent-Hopkins.

One person who has certainly enjoyed watching Nugent-Hopkins grow up before his eyes is coach Renney. The Vancouver media was quizzing him this morning on what it is that makes Nugent-Hopkins so special.

"It helps you understand as a coach the difference between a first overall and what separates them from many and certainly this kid's got the goods," said the coach.

Nugent-Hopkins is arguably in the midst of his driest spell of the season with only two assists in his last five games and no goals in his last six but Renney was quick to point out that RNH is also elite defensively and playing well in the other facets of his game is what makes him so good.

"This is a kid that identifies his relevance to the game in other ways besides scoring. He contributes in other ways, his two-way game is very good. He's an awesome defensive player and that's pretty special," he said.

-- Marc Ciampa,


Author: Marc Ciampa |

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