Chemistry test

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

Steve Pleau has a couple of challenges for his Edmonton Oil Kings this weekend.

The Oil Kings boarded a bus for Cranbrook yesterday, where they take on the Kootenay Ice tonight, and then head for Lethbridge tomorrow to round out their exhibition schedule.

"I would expect some drastic improvement in our special teams," said Pleau.

"Over the course of the last couple of games, it hasn't been where we've needed it to be and so we have been working on improving that over the last couple of practices."

That's challenge No.1, challenge No.2 is to build some chemistry with line combinations and the defensive pairings.

"I am hoping over the next couple of games we can play our roster so Rocky (Thompson) and I can start to see some chemistry. The guys should get excited to get on the road and learn about each other and learn to play together."

The Oil Kings are very close to their set roster after making three cuts Tuesday. The current roster sits at 24 players and the Oil Kings need to be down to 23 for the start of the season.

UPTEMPO PRACTICES

Since their latest roster moves, Pleau has really seen a difference in the intensity and pace of their practices.

"Our last two practices have been full of energy and the guys are having fun out there. They are relaxed in a good way, they aren't squeezing their sticks," Pleau said.

"I thought in our last game against Red Deer there was a lot of anxiety and I hope I don't see any of that this weekend."

Pleau challenged his team earlier in the week to be stronger defensively.

The Oil Kings had been out shot in every exhibition contest to date, but he feels that will come as the team starts playing together more.

"I think that will happen as we play more games. I thought the game the other night for the first half we were exceptional. We held Red Deer to just eight shots."

Oil Kings 18-year-old defenceman Drew Nichol feels the team is getting better defensively each game, but they have more improvement to do.

"We take pride in how we do on the ice and it's important as a group to bring structure to the defensive game," said Nichol.

FINISH WITH A FLURRY

"We want to finish these last two exhibition games with a statement and head into the regular season on a roll."

It replaces the mask he wore last year with the Chilliwack Bruins. It didn't take long for the mask to get any rubber marks on it. On a two-on-one drill, Oil Kings forward Karey Pieper let a shot go from the hash marks, hitting Archibald in the mask. Pieper went for the rebound and he hit his goaltender again in the mask.


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