Oilers making themselves at home in N.Y. suburbs

Updated: June 2, 2006, 5:02 PM ET
Associated Press

GREENBURGH, N.Y. --The Edmonton Oilers are making themselves quite comfortable in their home away from home as they prepare for the opening game of the Stanley Cup final Monday night at Carolina.

The NHL's Western Conference champions are living large at the New York Rangers' training center in this suburb 25 miles north of Manhattan, where they will stay through Sunday.

The facility, which is less than four years old, features an 1,800-sqare-foot, state-of-the-art weight room next to the locker room. There is also a well-appointed lounge with a pool table, pingpong table, refreshment center and high-definition television.

"It's not so much being in Edmonton, but being in the finals it's a case where the ticket requests and managing the calls from family and booking flights for your family and all that stuff, it can be really disruptive."
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish

"You could get spoiled here, that's for sure," forward Ryan Smyth said Friday. "It's got everything you need. We're very fortunate. It's what we needed right now, at this time."

More important for the Oilers' purposes, it is far away from the scrutiny and hype in their home city, which is starved for a Stanley Cup after a 16-year drought. It is also convenient to both Buffalo and Carolina, who were still playing in the Eastern Conference finals when Edmonton eliminated Anaheim in five games on May 27.

The Hurricanes beat Buffalo 4-2 in Game 7 on Thursday night.

"We started thinking about it when we went to Anaheim for Game 5," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "We wanted to get out East and started to throw some ideas around of where we were going to go. This was our first choice because we knew the facility is away from a lot of the distractions."

Facing an eight-day layoff, the Oilers considered going to Niagara Falls to train, but decided on the New York metropolitan area. It didn't hurt that McTavish and Oilers GM Kevin Lowe are both former Rangers.

"It's not so much being in Edmonton, but being in the finals it's a case where the ticket requests and managing the calls from family and booking flights for your family and all that stuff, it can be really disruptive," MacTavish said. "We knew we wanted to go somewhere. This worked out fine for us.

"We've said we'd be happy to reciprocate if New York's out there in the finals against Vancouver or something and they want a facility to use. We'd be happy to do that."

After a crisp one-hour, 15-minute practice Friday, players were upbeat as they shifted their focus to Carolina, which has won 12 of its last 16 games since opening the playoffs with back-to-back losses to Montreal.

"Today was our best practice since we've been back," defenseman Jason Smith said. "We had a lot of energy, and there was that nervous intensity you want to have. You want to have that edge when the series starts."

The Oilers won five Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990 but had not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 1998. That explains in part the reaction of Edmonton fans, whose celebration on downtown streets after the team defeated Anaheim got out of hand.

The situation prompting the team to have Smyth and other players tape public-service announcements urging calm.

"All the greatest guys played there. The history is there, so everybody follows hockey," forward Radek Dvorak said. "The craziness is there during the game and even in the streets before and after the games. We're part of that and it's unbelievable."

Edmonton has already confounded the experts by advancing farther than any No. 8 seed since the NHL went to the current seeding format in 1994.

"I wouldn't feel that we're overachieving," Smyth said. "I just think we've got some well-rounded depth on our hockey team and it's just a matter of getting an opportunity once you get in the playoffs, and we're making the most of it right now."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press