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THE TEAM TODAY: The Skinny on Shinny

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers


The day after being shutout by Chicago 5-0, the Oilers took a break from their hectic November schedule and rigorous on-ice problem-solving sessions.

The team held a lengthy closed-door meeting at Rexall Place before taking to the ice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.

Goalie Devan Dubnyk took to the ice first, stationing himself between the pipes at the far end of the rink. The skaters then emerged from the locker rooms, dressed only in their equipment -- no jerseys.

After completing a few warm-up laps and thoroughly confusing the media in attendance, head coach Tom Renney went old school, instructing all players to put their sticks in a pile and randomly selecting two teams -- blue and white -- for a four-on-four scrimmage.

"We decided just to take the weight off a little bit this morning and let them go out and play hockey like they were born to and have some fun," Renney explained after the skate.

"I understand these are professional athletes that get paid handsomely, but anybody at work needs to be able to enjoy that. We want to make sure they are capable of that in the first place and then that we can go to work together and get ourselves some wins."

Captain Shawn Horcoff said the meeting and fun skate were important for team morale.

"We all want to win, we have great guys in here, guys that are fully committed to turning this around," he said. "It's tough and it's a stressful time for all of us. It's been a really hard 10 days, but I think at the same time [the coaches are] hoping just to try to relax us a bit and just let us go out there tomorrow and just get back to playing hockey, not thinking so much."


A few players were absent from the action. Defenceman Ladislav Smid continues to feel the ill effects of a hit suffered in New York, and forward Ales Hemsky received a "maintenance day."

"He's sore and we've left him behind to get some treatment with TD (Forss, Oilers head athletic therapist)," Renney explained.

Nikolai Khabibulin was also absent. In the net opposite Dubnyk, Oilers staff attached a "shooter tutor," keeping some competitiveness in the one-goalie scrimmage.

Renney later announced that Khabibulin is out indefinitely with a groin injury.

He tweaked it last night and with that position it's one of those things where you've got to be real careful with naturally, and so we will be," he said. "It looks like we may be putting him on IR and if that's the case, obviously we're going to need some help."

The Oilers have tapped Martin Gerber to fill the vacant goaltending position. The veteran netminder has posted a 9-4-0 record, 2.56 GAA, and .911 SV% in 13 appearances this season with the Oilers AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.

Press release: Oilers recall Martin Gerber


Devan Dubnyk

With Khabibulin out, Dubnyk moves in as starting goalie for Friday night's contest vs. the Coyotes. The 24-year-old is excited about the the opportunity but isn't letting nerves or the team's current five-game losing streak influence his preparation.

"I've got to go in there and give us a chance to win hockey games -- that's my job, that's our job, it never changes," he said.
"It's important when you're in a funk like this that you do give the guys a chance to win, but you can't go out there and be trying to do something extraordinary outside of what you do. You've just got to go play the same way."

"I'm going to assume [Khabibulin's] injury isn't as serious as the one last year, but that's why you fight to be the number two goalie, so that if something happens then you're the guy that gets the opportunity," Dubnyk added. "I'm really looking forward to it. You obviously never wish bad on guys and hopefully he's back soon, but for the time being I'm going to have fun with it."


Dubnyk will lead the team onto the ice Friday night vs. the Coyotes. Limited tickets are available to snag yours now!



Dustin Penner

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Wraine Hunter of Stettler, AB submitted a question for Dustin Penner.

WRAINE: "What do you do to get motivated for all 82 games of the season? It must be hard to come out with the same effort every night."

DUSTIN: "I think you start to learn that as you get older in the game. For some guys it's all routine, some guys are just able to have that energy every day, and for other guys you have to work on maintaining yourself and getting the right amount of energy for each game.

With the travel and back-to-back games and stuff, nutrition, rest, and getting into a good routine helps."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Tom Gazzola



Following a road trip that many couldn’t wait to put behind them, the Oilers return to the friendly confines of Rexall Place this evening to battle, once again, with the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

After losing the 2009-10 season series to the Blackhawks 4-0, the Oilers have responded well this year, recording half of the season’s wins against one of the league’s most dynamic and complete rosters.

Perhaps even more impressively, both wins have come on the road at the United Center, which bodes well for a young Oilers team in search of confidence as they return home.


“We seem to be a little bit more alert to our system and more desperate to do the right thing as opposed to freelancing,” Head Coach Tom Renney said of the matchup vs. Chicago.

“Maybe it's been a function of us getting a good start early there two games ago, and then certainly being very close for the second game; we didn't want to make any mistakes. “

While the coach is aware of the team’s confidence against a very good Blackhawks team, he cautions that the group needs to stay focused and stick to the system.

“That's all good, but we have to make sure that in the interest of energy and the spontaneity of playing that we don't stand around and watch a real good team play, too.”


With Ladislav Smid currently out of the lineup as he continues to suffer the effects of a Sean Avery punch, rugged defenceman Shawn Belle will be getting his first taste of NHL action this season.

Belle arrives in Edmonton having put up incredible offensive numbers (two goals, 15 points in 17 games) for the Oklahoma City Barons early in this young season. With the opportunity to play solid defensive minutes in addition to some time on the powerplay, Belle says he’s excited about the chance.

“It's a lifelong dream. Getting back in the NHL, first game at home -- it's going to be something special,” Belle said with a smile.

“I think I just played with more confidence (in Oklahoma City). I used my skills to my advantage. I tried to be a little bit more patient instead of just jumping the gun. I started shooting the puck a little bit more, and there were some pretty good guys down there to play with.”

With the possibility of getting some additional time on the powerplay, Belle says his confidence continues to grow with the increase in opportunities.

“A little bit last year with Hamilton I played quite a bit on the powerplay. Not so much on the first unit, but the guys that I'm playing with are helping quite a bit.”


The influx of new ability didn’t stop at the addition of Belle. Physical forward J-F Jacques will be making his 2010-11 debut after starting the season on the injured reserve. When asked about how he’s feeling, Jacques insists that his injury is now a non-issue.

“Things are going well. I played four games there and it was perfect timing. It was good to get a day off in between to see how my back would respond. It went really well. It's probably better now than when I left, so it's great news.”


With some new faces and the need for a shake-up, the line combinations are as follows for tonight’s game:

Eberle – Horcoff – Hemsky
Hall – Gagner  - Penner
Paajarvi – Cogliano – Brule
Jacques – Fraser – Jones

Whitney – Gilbert
Peckham – Foster
Belle – Vandermeer


Both Jordan Eberle and Dustin Penner will be taking on a different role tonight, as they will be playing on their opposite wings to help bring a spark to the offensive combinations.

“I get a chance to play left wing. I've never really played much left wing, a little bit in junior, but I like it,” Eberle said of the change.

“Just from the practices it's kind of nice to come in on your off-side to get a little bit of a better look on your shot -- and I've always been pretty good on my backhand, so I've got an opportunity to play with some pretty good players.”

Head Coach Tom Renney is confident that the players will be able to handle the change and looks forward to the new look.

“The biggest challenge of all is just what your job is defensively; paying attention to the needs of the off-wing now, and I think that they're both intelligent players to overcome that, no question about that. It makes it a lot easier if your biggest decision is what to do in their end.”


With the team currently searching for confidence and ways to improve, captain Shawn Horcoff was helping to diffuse the pressure and help provide some confidence for the younger players.

“It's a fine line. It's tough as a young player. You can't just hear it, you have to go through it yourself. You have to go through tough times, you have to go through situations where your game isn't where it needs to be and you have to find ways to dig deep and overcome that; and find ways to find out what makes you successful at this level,” said Horcoff.

“That takes time. That's the same for every player. I think for us, more so than anything, we just have to make sure that their spirits are high when they come to the rink and that they're willing to put the work in.”

The Oilers will do their best to the rise the spirits and create some good vibes when they take on the Blackhawks tonight at 7:30p.m.


The Oilers were hoping to continue their success vs. the Blackhawks with a win at Rexall Place Wednesday night, but the visitors had something else in mind. Jonathan Toews scored the game's first three goals for a natural hat-trick, paving the way for a 5-0 shutout over the Oilers.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |, with files from Tom Gazzola, Jen Sharpe & Bob Stauffer



For the second straight day, the Oilers took to the ice in Sherwood Park for an off-day practice at Millenium Place.

Like Monday, the club was without defenceman Ladislav Smid, who continues to suffer the effects of an attack by Rangers forward Sean Avery Sunday afternoon.

"He's not ready to play. He can't play tomorrow definitely. Beyond that, I'm not sure," head coach Tom Renney said after practice. "I have to talk to T.D. (Forss, Oilers head athletic therapist) and the player and see where we are after that."


As a result of Smid's injury, the Oilers recalled defenceman Shawn Belle from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Tuesday morning.

The club also recalled forward J.F. Jacques, who was sent to Oklahoma on a conditioning assignment two weeks ago.

Read the press release

Renney is looking forward to seeing Jacques' contributions in Edmonton.

"When we've got it, we need to use our size as a strength, and he has that, there's no question," the coach explained. "We've got to make sure that we play a game that's simple enough to allow him to do those things.

"You can make a big statement for yourself if you're on top of people and finishing your checks and going hard to the net, and that's right up his alley."


Although the Oilers are struggling with only two wins in the past 14 games, both of those wins have come against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. It's an accomplishment that hasn't gone unnoticed in the locker room.

"Most people wouldn't say that having the defending Stanley Cup Champions in town is a good thing, but for our club we've had quite a bit of success against them this year and if there's any game to win, this one will be the one we're looking for, especially with what's happened as of late," forward Dustin Penner said.

The team's recent road trip was a disappointment, producing only three of a possible 10 points, and both players and coaches agree that there is no simple solution to their current on-ice problems.

"You hope you never go through it in your career, but things like this happen -- you've got to continue to keep working through them on and off the ice," defenceman Tom Gilbert said. "It's not going to be the next game all of a sudden everything's going back to normal. It's going to be next game first shift, next game second shift, and just continue to try to get a rhythm going in your game."

Renney said there's a fine balance between reflecting on the past to learn from your mistakes and moving forward.

"You've got to remember why you lose, and we can't afford ourselves the luxury of not doing that. At the same time as I say that, you do have to turn the page and apply the game plan to your next team and you do that by practicing and paying attention to the details you think will allow you to do that.," he explained. "I think every single one of us is looking forward to Chicago."


In the latest edition of our fan question series, Lennis Maxwell of Rocky Mountain House submitted a question for Jordan Eberle.

LENNIS: "Do you feel pressure is added or taken away from you, being on a team with the likes of Hall and Paajarvi as first year players?"

Jordan Eberle

JORDAN: "I think it's the same either way. If you're a young guy, you put the added pressure on yourself to do well. It doesn't really matter if there's other guys on the team in the same situation. I feel like either way I'd be putting the same amount of pressure on myself. 

The thing that helps having the other guys too is from the crowd perspective. They put pressure on us and you can bounce it across from one another, so from that aspect it helps."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.

Author: Jen Sharpe |, with files from Tom Gazzola


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