SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers get a break

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

Turns out there really is rest for the weary.

The short staffed Oilers had yesterday off, following a hard-fought win over the Flames. That was on the heels of no morning skate the day of the Calgary game and a limited practice, with about 10 players excused, on Thursday.

"You just can't expect guys who are playing 20-plus minutes a night to practice as much," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who's trying to juggle practice time for a team that's last in the conference with rest for a team that's been decimated by injury.

How often do you skate a shorthanded team that has defencemen pushing 30 minutes a night, and how many days off can you give a team that isn't winning?

"It's probably not an easy thing to do to find that balance," said defenceman Steve Staios. "It's hard, when you're not being successful on the ice, to justify a day off away from the rink. But at the same time there are times when it is the right thing to do.

"A day of rest, if you can find it in the schedule, helps everybody, especially the guys who are playing a lot of minutes."

MacTavish is also scheduling fewer morning skates. They didn't have one the day of the Colorado game, nor in Calgary, and showed a lot of jump on both nights.

"I've kind of always struggled with how I felt about the morning skate," said MacTavish. "We've gone through exercises in the past where we documented whether that correlated to being sharp in the evening and it didn't.

"But if there was stuff we needed to work on we would have gone to the rink. The other part of this is you can have a longer meeting (on game day). You can focus on more execution."

GUMBY SAVES DAY

Mathieu Garon looked like he was going to dislocate his hips on a couple of highlight reel saves Saturday in Calgary. He robbed Owen Nolan and Marcus Nilson with splits that would make a Russian gymnast grimace.

"I don't want to get too much into splits, but sometimes you have to do it," said Garon, adding it's usually a move based on desperation. "At the end of the night it looks good, but if I have to do the splits it means I made a mistake somewhere."

Or that the Oilers are continually leaving the back door open. Either way, Garon's flexibility saved the day on numerous occasions. He stopped 37 of 39 shots on the night to come up big in a bit of a surprise start.

"It was a huge game for us and having the start I didn't want to disappoint the coach,"he said. "Getting the win is the best thing to do."

ROURKE TATTOOS FLAME

Newcomer Allan Rourke had an eventful Oilers debut. He had a pretty decent scrap with Calgary's Eric Nystrom and had a chance to score on a second-period two-on-one.

"It was exciting, a big crowd out there, loud," said the recently recalled defenceman. "I was a little nervous to start, but I thought I came through all right."

Nystrom challenged Rourke, who only had six penalty minutes in 12 games in Springfield this season, before a faceoff and they went at it seconds after the puck dropped.

"I'm not really known for fighting, as you can probably tell," he said. "But we were up a goal and he came at me and asked me to go. He wanted to give his team a spark. I'm not going to say no at that point. I don't fight a lot but I thought I held my own."

A goal and a fight in his first game up would have been sweet, but he missed by a few inches.

"The D man took the pass away and I decided to shoot," he said. "I tried to go short side on him but I missed the net."

TARNSTROM COMES UP BIG

Dick Tarnstrom, who ran into some rocky waters earlier this month, played 26:51, including 5:55 of penalty kill time. He also had two third-period assists in the 4-2 win.

"It felt good, the whole team played really solid," he said, adding he likes the additional minutes. "It's something everybody likes to do. It gets you into the game a little more, keeps you focused."


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