Moms the word for Oilers

Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner battles with Phoenix Coyotes right winger Mikkel Boedker in the...

Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner battles with Phoenix Coyotes right winger Mikkel Boedker in the first period Saturday night in Glendale, Ariz. Rick Scuteri, Reuters

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:00 AM ET

EDMONTON - A year ago, the Edmonton Oilers invited players’ fathers along for a road trip through the desert.

This season, it was the moms’ turn.

Nearly half the team had an opportunity to spend quality time with their mothers, who were invited to tag along as the Oilers faced the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday.

“It’s really good,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “We had a real nice night (Friday) night. We had a nice reception with them, all the players spoke a little bit about their moms and what they mean to them and it kind of takes you back. It makes you understand why you’re here and how you got here in lots of ways.

“It’s really good to have them here, they’re certainly enthusiastic and energetic. I’ve never high-fived moms before going out for a morning skate, so that was interesting and they got every player, so it was a little different.”

Practically anyone that has ever laced up a pair of skates growing up is indebted to their mother. Those that actually go on to make it to the NHL aren’t any different. Most wouldn’t be here had it not be for sacrifices their mothers made, allowing them to play the game.

“My mom did all that, she would leave early from her job to take me to the rink or get up early and stay up late whatever needed to be done,” said Oilers winger Magnus Paajarvi. “She was a big help and she’s meant the most for me in my life.”

Paajarvi’s mother, Maria, flew to Edmonton to stay with her son for a week before heading to Phoenix with the rest of the mothers on the trip.

Paajarvi had his dad tag along last year.

“You have different relationships with your mom and your dad,” Paajarvi said. “I think I have a special bond with my mom. It’s different bonds, but it’s so nice I’m blessed having great parents.”

Last year, the fathers’ trip didn’t end well as the Oilers were shutout 5-0 by the Coyotes. They went into Saturday’s game looking for a little better result perhaps with a different form of motivation provided by the moms.

“My mom always had a real positive outlook and she was extremely encouraging and always urging me to keep going,” said goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was joined by his mother Barb on the trip. “It was a good contrast. My dad was positive, too, but he pushed me a little more than she did. She was there whenever I needed someone to talk to and always had a positive attitude.”

Hemsky’s progress

Ales Hemsky is back practising with the Oilers, but it still may be some time before he gets into the lineup.

The winger is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and has played just two games this season.

“He’s a ways away yet,” Renney said. “But I think we’ll have some contact with him (Sunday) in practice, have some pushing and shoving and see how he makes out with that.”

Originally, the prognosis was two weeks for Hemsky, who tweaked his injured shoulder in a game against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 13.

Desert distractions

Centre Eric Belanger can relate to what the Coyotes are going through, not certain of their future in Arizona.

Last season Belanger was with the Coyotes as talked swirled of the team’s impending move to Winnipeg. This year, the talk is that the Coyotes will be eventually heading to Quebec City.

“It’s tough to ignore it, but we didn’t have any choice, we had a job to do and had to try and win games,” Belanger said. “We had to come to the rink every day and try not to think about it. It was a grind every day and we’d hear people talk about it. I’ll always remember two days before our series against Detroit started, the story came out that we were moving. It was just bad timing. We dealt with it all year and it was just another hit in the head.

“It was tough all year, but talking to some of the guys it’s been better this year, but there is still a cloud over the team whether they’re going to stay or be moving next year. It’s a tough situation.”

Paajarvi’s predicament

Magnus Paajarvi is growing more frustrated with every game he fails to record a point. However, with the Oilers heading into Phoenix on a six-game winning streak, it’s hard to be too upset with the way things are going.

“I think eventually it’s going to come and I just need to keep working on it,” Paajarvi said. “The team is winning and that’s the main thing. I hope I can contribute to the team in other ways than just points. Obviously I want to score, but some times you’re going to get in scoring slumps and that’s what this is and you just have to face it and try to get through it.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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