An already challenging year for Oilers coach Tom Renney got a little more difficult Tuesday night with the passing of his father to illness. The senior Renney had been ailing for a while, and the coach briefly left the team last fall to spend more time with him. Despite the loss, Renney was present at the Oilers morning skate and will be behind the bench tonight when they welcome the Los Angeles Kings to town. The Oilers haven’t played since before the All-Star break, and will be forced to shake off the rust early as the Kings already got their game legs back after playing last night against Minnesota. Ales Hemsky is expected to be back in the line-up for Edmonton, and Nikolai Khabibulin will get the call in net. Rookie Jordan Eberle isn’t quite ready to return, but he might suit up Friday vs. St. Louis. Gilbert Brule remains out of the line-up with what the team is calling flu-like symptoms. He’s currently undergoing tests to determine the problem. Coach Renney offered the following comments on his injured players:
“I think Ales is right there to play,” the coach said. “He had a good skate again today, he did really well on the test, so I think we’re going to play him.” He also spoke on Eberle’s recent skating tests: “I’m weighing that one out. I’m not sure. I wasn’t completely sold on the test,” Renney admitted. (Oilers.com)
The return to action tonight marks the beginning of the unofficial second half of the season. At this point, the chances of the Oilers getting into playoff contention are all but gone, but that hasn’t stopped the young players on the team from reveling in the NHL experience. Taylor Hall enjoyed the festivities of his first all-star weekend as he was selected to the rookie team and participated in the skills competition.
“It was a good experience,” Hall said. “The biggest thing is just being able to get a little bit of rest. In the NHL, the season takes a toll on you, it was nice to get a break, lay low for a little while and take some time off. It was good for me, because I have played a lot of hockey in the last two years and it was good to get a nice break and recharge a little bit.” (Toronto Sun)
And despite his team’s position in the standings, the rookie remains positive:
“I think if we keep playing the way we are and we keep getting healthier, then we’ll be able to put some wins together,” said Hall. “We want to build a good reputation for ourselves and set ourselves up for a good, positive off-season.”