| SPECIAL TEAMS NOT SO SPECIAL |
Sunday's practice involved a lot of soul searching for the Oilers as they attempted to find some answers for their recent special teams struggles.
The club spent a lot of time on the ice working on basic special teams drills in addition to other fundamentals such as shot blocking as they try to break out of their current six-game funk.
"We're in a stretch now where we've given up a lot killing penalties," head coach Pat Quinn remarked following practice. "Too many of them are point shots and tips or loose pucks around the front. We have to do a better job."
The powerplay has also struggled, with only three goals in the team's last 35 opportunities (8.6%) - an 11-game stretch. Two of those three goals came in the Nashville game on December 17.
"On our powerplay, we are dry right now. We're playing teams that are presisng us more quickly than in the past. That would be the scouting report," Quinn continued. "Our guys haven't responded well to the quickness that they have to start moving the puck. That's what's getting in our way right now. We want to hold onto it, we think we have time but it's not there."
According to Quinn, the issue on both the powerplay and penalty kill has been consistency.
"We are not a consistent group. We give up on plans quickly. We're a team that's been used to losing - we hope we never accept it.
"We don't stick to a program long, we go to an ad lib. 'I'm going to do it myself' kind of mode. As long as I've been around that never works."
What the team has been practicing lately is an attempt by Quinn to try and build some of that routine into his players.
"Execution is what counts. We identify our jobs then we have to do them correctly."
POTULNY'S TRAVEL NIGHTMARE
Ryan Potulny scored Edmonton's lone goal on Saturday night but he almost didn't make it to the game at all. Following the team's game in Minnesota on December 23, Potulny stayed behind in order to spend Christmas with his family in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
|Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Potulny, left, has the puck poke-checked off his stick by Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) |
The city is about two hours south of Winnipeg and Potulny's plan was to drive into Manitoba and catch a flight from Winnipeg to Edmonton in the early afternoon on Christmas Day. He would then charter with the rest of the club into Vancouver on Boxing Day morning.
A blizzard changed all that.
"It started out on Christmas Day. I was scheduled to fly out of Winnipeg at 1:00."
"The snow in Grand Forks was too high around the area and the roads were shut off so we couldn't fly to Winnipeg to get on that flight.
We just scratched that ticket, bought a new one to fly out of Grand Forks at 1:00. Got to the airport and that flight didn't go out because of the weather. Rescheduled again for 5:00 out of Grand Forks. Got on the runway, I'm thinking 'we're looking pretty good, finally on the runway.' Then we turned around because of mechanical problems. Temperature was too cold."
"Booked myself on the 6:50 flight. Made sure I could get my connector in Minnesota (to Edmonton), it was a late flight, a 9:50 flight."
"But that flight was delayed because they were trying to move everyone over from the one that got scratched. Got into Minneapolis at about 10:30. My flight left at 9:50 so I missed that one."
"Stayed at a hotel right by the airport in Minneapolis. Got on a flight straight from Minneapolis to Vancouver the next morning. Got there about noon, got to go on the ice, skate a little bit and got the legs moving but it was a long, stressful one-and-a-half days there.
ZACK PACKS A PUNCH
One of the highlights from Saturday night's game was Zack Stortini's dust-up with the Canucks' Rick Rypien.
|Edmonton Oilers' Zack Stortini, right, and Vancouver Canucks' Rick Rypien fight during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) |
Stortini more than held his own against Rypien - one of the best fighters in the NHL despite his smaller size. Out of three fights against Rypien, it was clearly Stortini's best showing.
"It was a good batlte. He's an honest, tough guy. It was one of the better ones, for sure," said Stortini on Sunday.
The motivation for the fight from Stortini's point of view was simple. The team was down two goals after the Canucks netted a pair of powerplay markers in 18 seconds. He felt the club needed a lift.
"Our team needed a boost," he said. "We were down two goals and they play a physical brand of hockey. We weren't backing down."
And sure enough, seconds after the bout Potulny scored to make it 2-1.
"It was a great goal by Potsy to get us back in there."
Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com