SUN Hockey Pool

Skid interrupted by skills

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

It was the first time the Edmonton Oilers smiled on the ice in weeks.

There hasn't been a lot to be happy about this season.

On Sunday, however, the Oilers put their troubles aside for a day during their annual skills event, which drew over 10,000 fans to Rexall Place.

"It's nice to get away from everything and have some fun out there," said Mike Comrie, who is closing in on a return to the lineup and took part in the skills competition.

"I think sometimes you need that. We're always so focused during the season, getting ready for games and practising hard, that you always have to be on. Days like today, you can let your guard down, have some fun. It's good to see guys smiling and joking around out there and just playing hockey.

"I know it's fun for the fans and we had fun as a group."

For those keeping score, the Orange team defeated the White team 20-15 in the competition.

Highlights included Lubomir Visnovsky winning the fastest skater event, Sheldon Souray defending his hardest-shot title and Fernando Pisani taking the accurate-shooter contest.

"I think this was a good time for something like this," said Souray. "Guys came in having a good day off (Saturday), which we needed. It's not very often you can have a day like today where the guys come in, practise, do a little work and then have another relaxing event.

"It's not very often in our schedule where you're able to have a little break. The last time we had a little break, it wasn't really a break, it was work."

The Oilers cancell ed a scheduled golf vacation earlier this month in an attempt to address some of their shortcomings on the ice.

While they have put in some strong efforts lately, they have been unable to pick up a victory in the new year.

With the team out of a playoff spot and languishing at the bottom the NHL standings, the mood hasn't been very upbeat in the locker-room.

"We're just trying to stay positive," Souray said. "We've had a couple of games where more good things have happened. So we just want to keep that feeling, so it's good timing for a day like today to keep it loose and light."

The event traditionally is a family one for the players. Their kids usually take in the competition from the bench.

Souray had his two daughters, who reside in California, attend the competition.

"A day like today, where you can come to the rink and not feel guilty about having them here," Souray said. "Sometimes the timing is not right.

"But today is for kids, it's for people to come and for us to show our personalities a little bit. The team has always made it a family-first type atmosphere around here. It's good to be able to enjoy it, I don't get that opportunity myself with my kids around here that often. So to have them both here sitting on the bench and things like that is good. It's fun for them to sit on the bench also."

NO GAG: Sam Gagner did not take part in the team's skills competition after tweaking his knee earlier. He is listed as day-to-day.


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