SUN Hockey Pool

Weekend warriors back on ice

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

It's almost unheard of, taking two days off in the middle of training camp.

Yet with four games in four nights, the Edmonton Oilers decided to take the weekend off before returning to the ice yesterday.

Tonight they'll host the Calgary Flames (7 p.m.) at Rexall Place in the fifth of seven scheduled exhibition games.

They round out the preseason with games in Calgary and Dallas this weekend.

"This is totally unprecedented for us," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "But I want to keep it fresh. I like what they've done and I like the condition level they came in for training camp.

"We had four games in four nights, and although there weren't a lot of guys that played three of those four games, we wanted to keep it fresh. We still have two weeks so there is plenty of time."

The Oilers won't open the regular season until Oct. 12 and will be taking a four-day team-building trip to Jasper to prepare for the season.

"It's not ideal," MacTavish said. "We were trying a game in there. That's one of the reasons we're going up to Jasper so that we're not sitting at home for a week and getting stale."

Yesterday, the Oilers split up practice with a veteran group going out in the first session and rookies taking to the ice afterwards. The second group included top prospects Rob Schremp and Gilbert Brule.

"It's tough for 36 guys to get the reps they need." MacTavish said. "I wanted some time to have a special team's practice. These guys (second group) are all on the cusp. Hopefully they don't read any more into it, they certainly shouldn't. But the important thing for me is to make sure that our power play, penalty killers and the players that are here for sure are ready to go."

The Oilers are expecting to cut three or four players following tonight's game against the Flames. According to MacTavish, the Oilers will ice a more experienced roster at home than they will in the return encounter in Calgary. They'll then play their expected opening night lineup in their final exhibition game in Dallas.


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