Saturday, June 17, 2006
Saturday's morning skate at Cup finals
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Ah, the morning skate. Drills, no spills and, well, not much else.
Live (sort of) from the Stanley Cup finals, NHL writer Scott Burnside and NHL editor Joy Russo give you a rink-side play-by-play.
Russo: We're back again for more morning fun. Miss us? The Oilers are out first.
Burnside: So here we are at the last morning skate at Rexall Place this season. No matter what happens tonight in Game 6, this will be the last game here. I wonder if the Oilers, who are skating around doing their normal routines, have a sense of melancholy about it?
It's a weird day because everyone's preparing for two eventualities. If the Oilers win everyone from trainers to the media will scramble after the game to prepare for Game 7 in Raleigh on Monday. If the Canes win it will mean, for Carolina folks, celebrating their first Cup win and all the attendant parties and celebrations. Must be hard to prepare for that without feeling cocky.
Russo: It would be kind of anti-climactic if the Oilers lose it all at home, no?
Burnside: You have to love Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish. He just ran up the corridor from the Oilers dressing room and onto the ice. If it's true that players take their cues, emotionally, from their coach, then the Oilers must be having the times of their lives.
Russo: Both coaches (MacTavish and Canes coach Peter Laviolette) seem to get the most out of their players. At least on the surface, both coaches seem to have the respect of the room.
Russo: Jarret Stoll just skated over to the bench for an equipment adjustment, about 15 feet in front of us. For those of you who don't know, the Oilers center is dating supermodel Rachel Hunter, who has been seen in the Rexall stands for Games 3 and 4. She might be around tonight for Game 6. Jarret Stoll, the overachiever! We kid Jarret!
Russo: Mr. Burnside has left us temporarily to do a talkback for the CBC Morning News. Ah, the life of a hockey writer rock star. Do we tell the CBC producers that he's been wearing the same gray sweatshirt to the morning skate for the entire Cup finals? It's his playoff superstition.
Russo: The Oilers are loose again in today's skate; on one side, players are practicing tip-ins from the point, and on the other, Jussi Markkanen is trying to stop a barrage of close-range slap shots.
Russo: MacTavish is talking with someone who appears to be a member of the Oilers equipment staff. The man is holding a drill. Hmm, are the Oilers planning on planting a loonie somewhere in Part II of Coingate? Of course, this is pure speculation on our part.
Russo: Burnside is back!
Russo: The Ty Conkin-Ryan Smyth-Shawn Horcoff tip-in competition is happening yet again. It is an Oilers morning skate ritual.
Burnside: Speaking of Ty Conklin and his competitiveness, I happened to be at the training camp for the U.S. national team prior to the 2005 World Championship. Conklin was battling for the No. 1 spot with Rick DiPietro. As he is want to do, Conklin would smash his stick on the ice or against the crossbar if he was beaten by a shot during practice. At one point, he sent a goalie stick tomahawking into the stands in Lake Placid startling a group of fans. Ah, goalies.
Russo: The Oilers are about done. We'll be back in a few for the Canes.
Russo: Carolina is out and skating.
Burnside: Coach Peter Laviolette has yet to make an appearance. Doug Weight is also absent. He was in street clothes chatting with people outside the Canes locker room. It must be a crushing disappointment for the veteran not to be in action with a chance to win the Cup on Saturday. When he returned to the bench in Game 5, it was obvious he was in pain and wasn't going to play. But obviously, he wanted to be on the bench, in his gear, if the Canes were victorious to share in what would have been his first Cup.
Russo: It looks like Weight is watching the skate from the stands, talking with former NHL goalie and current NHL Radio analyst John Vanbiesbrouck.
Russo: So, we got to the bottom of the MacTavish/equipment conference. He was actually talking to Dan Craig, the "ice man" of the NHL. The NHL hired him from the Oilers to oversee ice conditions for the entire league. Craig was discussing the ice conditions with MacT. Apparently, one of two chillers at Rexall Place broke down on Saturday, allowing more humid air to circulate through the building, meaning the increased chance of a depleted ice surface. The chiller was fixed and the ice will be A-OK come game time tonight.
Russo: The air is more subdued during the Canes' skate. All business.
Russo: TV cameramen are scrambling to find a spot to shoot some of the Canes' practice. Usually, they shoot from the team bench, but Laviolette won't allow it. Even with the coach absent from the morning skate, the cameras are steering clear of the benches.
Burnside: If there's one guy to watch tonight from the Carolina perspective, it'll be Josef Vasicek. The 6-foot-5 forward has been in the lineup the last two games after sitting out most of the last two rounds. With Doug Weight injured, it's possible Vasicek will see not only more ice time, but some power-play time, as well. Vasicek was part of a group of young players, along with Erik Cole and Jaroslav Svoboda, that were instrumental to the Hurricanes' 2002 run to the Stanley Cup finals. But injury and the team's depth have kept him from developing in the way Carolina executives would like. Now, he's going to get a late chance to prove himself with the Cup on the line.
Russo: The Canes are wrapping things up here at the skate. Be sure to check out all of ESPN.com's coverage from tonight's Game 6. Enjoy the pucks!