Oilers parked at the Park

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

If you only get once chance to take a deep breath before the schedule maker gets his hands around your neck, it might as well be in the cool mountain air.

So, with a full week between their last preseason game and their home-opener, and with 12 of their first 15 games on the road, the Edmonton Oilers headed for the mountains yesterday in search of some calm before the storm.

"It'll be nice to just go out and have some fun, be with the guys," said defenceman Sheldon Souray, as the players changed out of their gear after practice and boarded a bus for Jasper. "Once the season starts, we know it's going to be a grind - especially with our schedule at the begining, it's going to be pretty tough. So it's going to be nice to get away and kind of shut our brains off for a little bit."

It's going to get pretty hectic right off the bat, so management decided to give out a few mental health days in advance - but only under the condition the players treat it like a business trip, not a party.

"It's not Mardi Gras," said Souray. "We have a pretty important game coming up on Sunday so we have to focus on that."

Captain Ethan Moreau likes the idea of the fall getaway.

"Regardless of where we are there are some certain things we need to work on," he said. "So while we're in Jasper it'll be no distractions, just focusing in on Oct. 12 and work on our system play, do some team building stuff and just enjoy being with the boys."

The Oilers will do a lot of team building on the three-day trip, but head coach Craig MacTavish says the emphasis will be on tactics rather than camaraderie.

"It's all about on ice work," he said. "Camaraderie and good spirit doesn't mean a lot when you're not executing on the ice. That's going to be the singular focus of what we're trying to accomplish up in Jasper."

MacTavish doesn't like the idea of a week between their last preseason game and the home opener against Colorado. He says it could lead to boredom and even rust. So the situation called for some creative thinking.

"It's too much time," he said. "We tried to get a game in there, fought pretty hard. The last thing you want is four days off to start the season. There's plenty of times during the season when we'd love that opportunity to regroup and get some rest, but not at the start of the year.

"This (Jasper) just keeps it fresh. We're not here for a week practising every day, we're up there with the focus on conditioning and execution and all the things in the game that we're going to need to fine tune to be good."

All they can do is try and make the most of it.

"Four or five days is usually the norm before the season, but it is what it is, you have to take it," said Shawn Horcoff, adding the break between games can be a positive if they use it properly.

"We can use it to our advantage hopefully, but it's important that we actually do practise hard. From the Calgary game to the Dallas game our system play was so much better and that was just from practising. You can really tell the difference. We have to get ready."

It's been a strange schedule all around for the Oilers, who were playing a preseason game before camp was three days old, then playing four exhibition games in four days before a week off before the season.

"It's been different right from the start of camp," said Moreau.

As far as they're concerned, Jasper will be nice, but the season can't come soon enough.

"We're kind of champing at the bit to get going, especially me because it's been so long," said Horcoff, who hasn't played since a shoulder injury in mid-season last year. "I need to get some NHL games in. Exhibition is never the same. It's been a while for me, forever, it seems."


Videos

Photos