Home ice no advantage for Oilers

Rob Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:04 AM ET

EDMONTON - Ryan Whitney is done for the season because he caught a rut in the Rexall ice.

Jim Vendermeer was injured, in two separate home games, when his ankle went one way and his skate blade went another.

And Sam Gagner looked like he got hit from behind by a ghost Thursday when his footing betrayed him and he slammed into the side boards untouched.

So, how's the ice at Rexall Place, guys?

"Terrible," said Tom Gilbert, voicing a concern that Oilers and opponents alike have been mumbling about for years. "Maybe terrible is a strong word, it's never going to be good no matter where you go, but you obviously wish it could be better."

Edmonton's ice used to be the pride of the NHL. Every team that came here would rave that the sheet looked like glass and lasted 20 minutes a period. Fast skating teams loved it.

Now, it often looks like the players are passing around a tennis ball out there. And the ankle injuries speak for themselves.

"You never want to complain about the ice because what you get is what you get, it's the same for both teams," said Gilbert. "It's not like it's hurting us more than it's hurting the other team, but there's not a lot of room for error.

"If you throw a pass and it's a little bit wobbly there's a chance it's going to hit something and start bouncing. Every single time a puck hits the boards along the ice it's like a grenade.

"If you're trying to make a pass up the wall the puck is going everywhere. It bounced over my stick about four times last game. That gets frustrating. You hope that there's room for error, but there's really not."

The Oilers say it's fallen to the middle of the pack in the NHL. Middle of the pack might sound OK, except when you consider that almost half the pack is in hot or humid climates like Anahem, Phoenix, Nashville, Florida and Dallas. Being 15th out of 20 winter weather cities, when you're in dry, cold Edmonton, isn't something to be proud of.

"For sure it isn't what it used to be but it is still better than some rinks," added Shawn Horcoff, whose seen the ice conditions deteriorate significantly in his 10 years here. "It's way different now, but the ice machine is 10 years older."

And with the Edmonton Oil Kings sharing the rink, it sees twice as much traffic as it used to.

"The last couple of years it hasn't been as good as it was, it seems like there's lot's of ruts in it," said Vandermeer. "You used to come here and expect good ice. But all the buildings are bad. They're either taking the ice in and out or they're covering it."

The Gagner wipe out had everyone scratching their heads.

"I don't what the hell that was," said Vandermeer. "He got up and he's OK, so we can laugh about it because it was pretty comical, but it was also a little scary there."

Gagner still doesn't know the exact cause of his single vehicle accident on Thursday, but isn't ready to blame it all on the ice.

"I think a sniper hit me from the top row," he said. "I went to chip it and avoid the hit and I think I toe-picked and hit the boards pretty heavily. I'm glad I wasn't injured on the play.

"It's just one of those things. It can happen in any building. It's hard to keep it good every night. There are a lot of different factors that play into it. They're doing the best they can."

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI"I think he said it was tough skipping and he wanted to try a different spot," said Appelman. "If he's not skipping, he's not skipping.

"Its about time we got him working (sweeping) out there. He's really cocky about it. He thinks he's really good."

KING'S MEN: Jamie King has stepped into a familiar role with Warren Hassall's Lloydminster team.

It's the same role he held in losing Alberta men's finals to Randy Ferbey in 2003 and the heartbreaking loss in 2005 with Blake MacDonald throwing last rocks.

"At the end of last year, the guys I was playing with decided they only wanted to play in one or two spiels," said King. "I still wanted to play five or six. These guys were looking for a third and I progressed my way up to skip.

"I'm holding the broom. I was a bad enough sweeper they had to force me into skipping. Great guys. I've known them for a long time.

"This is perfect. No pressure throwing last rocks and I don't have to sweep."

The team made its way into last night's A Event semifinal round.

"We haven't peaked by any means," said King.


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