SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers grateful for break

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 AM ET

EDMONTON - During an NHL season, four days between games can seem like an eternity.

But considering the stretch the Edmonton Oilers just went through, they’ll take it, even if it means having to scrape off some rust when they eventually get back to business Tuesday in San Jose.

“It was necessary, we had 20 games in 40 days,” said Oilers associate coach Ralph Krueger on Sunday. “When you look at the fact we had also been dealing with injuries in that stretch, and we had to shorten the bench to get points in many situations, we were really happy to have the physical break.

“But it’s going to be a tough one to bounce back from, especially with Christmas looming after the trip. It’ll be a psychological test for us as a group, how much we can focus on a small picture, how much we can focus on the challenge at hand.”

The Oilers haven’t played a game since beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 on Thursday. They practised on Friday before taking Saturday off and returning to the ice Sunday.

They’ll have a brief skate in Leduc on Monday before heading to the airport to travel for their game against the Sharks.

“We tried to ease them back in (Sunday),” Krueger said. “It’ll be good to get on the plane (Monday) and to get away, to get into a concentrated environment.

“We need to have good quality. We can’t overload them with too much information, it’ll be more about tweaking things and feeling what it takes to be a competitive team against some of the top teams in the league.”

Following their encounter with the Sharks, the Oilers will head to Los Angeles to face the Kings. They’ll return home for a brief Christmas break before travelling to Vancouver to play the Canucks on Boxing Day.

“Having all this time off couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. “Guys are a little beat up. We just needed a little break away from the game.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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