Round of golf in desert worth it

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

The timing couldn't be better.

Or worse, depending on your perspective.

Leaving two days early for a Thursday game in Phoenix, so the boys can spend a little bonding time in the Arizona sun, might seem a curious course of action for a team on a four-game losing streak.

But the Edmonton Oilers, who scheduled their retreat before the season started, weren't about to cancel everything and give the impression that it's time to panic.

Besides, they believe a day of golf and a team dinner this early in the season will do a lot more good than a bag skate and film session ever could.

"It gives us a few days to regroup,"said defenceman Sheldon Souray, adding four days between games also gives them an opportunity to purge some negative energy.

"I don't think it could have come at a better time, to have this little break in the schedule. We're going to get to know each other a little bit better as guys."

And that's why management believes it's more important to foster a sense of camaraderie than crack the whip, especially on a team that's 50% brand new.

"I agree,"said defenceman Matt Greene.

"Something like this helps everyone get to know the young guys a little better. The single guys already know (each other) a little off the ice because we don't have families to go to after games and practices.

"The older guys, this will be their first chance to really sit down with them because they're always at home with their wives and kids and stuff.

"This will be a real bonding experience for the entire team to get to know each other on a personal level.

"And that's what makes a team strong, having that personal off-ice bond."

Ethan Moreau, still two weeks away from making his on-ice debut as captain because of a broken foot, is on the trip. So is Fernando Pisani, the popular veteran who's going to miss several months, if not the whole season, while he recovers from colitis.

SCHREMP GETTING SETTLED: Rob Schremp saw ice time with Ales Hemsky and Andrew Cogliano in his first game with the Oilers, which has the makings of a pretty dynamic line.

Whether it stays together remains to be seen.

"It's a highly skilled unit," admits head coach Craig MacTavish. "There are some things he has to improve on to play there consistently, but I liked them in Vancouver.

"I got the sense that he is going to score a goal if he got the opportunity. He looked dangerous.

"With him there are some areas he needs to clean up but there are some areas he could really help us right now.

"We need more dimension to his game. We'll see what he can do. We know he's going to create stuff, it's just a matter of how much he's going to give up."

Schremp says every game he plays will help him feel more comfortable.

"I settled in nice in Vancouver," he said. "It took about a period to get going and make some plays, but after I settled down and got the nerves out I thought I played well."

MINOR SPLASH: Patrick Thoresen was named AHLplayer of the week on the strength of three goals, two assists and a plus-5 rating in three games.


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