SUN Hockey Pool

From cheers to jeers in Smyth's return

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

The biggest cheer in the opening moments of last night's game came when Ryan Smyth took his first strides on the ice since the second game of the season.

After seven straight games of watching and not liking much of what he was seeing, the Edmonton Oilers captain was back and appeared to be in good form, showing few effects of an MCL sprain that forced him to don a new knee brace.

But an expectedly upbeat outing marking the return to full-strength of the Oil's top line turned into a complete debacle - a 7-1 loss at home to the division rival Colorado Avalanche, who also happen to be Edmonton's first opponent on a three-game road trip beginning Tuesday.

Welcome back, Smytty.

"It was a letdown, no question," said Smyth, who played nearly 20 minutes.

From cheers to jeers in no time flat. And the sellout crowd's boos were warranted.

"It was an embarrassment and we should be ashamed of ourselves," admitted Smyth, who felt his rehabbed left knee held up under the strain.

"It was a nice gesture from the fans with me coming back to hear the fans' cheers but we deserved every bit (of the boos). We weren't ready and they jumped all over us. Give them a lot of credit, but we just didn't play at all.

"We've got to build on these types of things. We've got to look to each one of us in this locker room to do the right things. It's a lesson learned."

But it can't be easy to build when the foundation is so obviously cracked.

There wasn't an answer to any of the Oilers' miseries. A goaltending switch usually brings some sort of lift in emotion from a team. It didn't work.

Power plays are supposed to give a team a chance to pepper an opposing netminder. Nothing happening there either.

"No excuses," said fellow first-liner Shawn Horcoff. "How can a team like this lose a game like that? This is the best team I've been on since I've been an Edmonton Oiler. I just don't get it.

"I thought we came out and had a couple of strong shifts and they scored right away. First periods are killing us and it's a big mountain to climb against a team like Colorado."

The assistant captain figured finger-pointing and second-guessing from within won't solve things.

"We've got to stick together," offered Smyth.

"Each one of us has to look in the mirror and simplify things - do our little things that everybody in here does best and what makes you accountable to the team and bring that to the table. I don't care if we win 2-1 - just get the win in Colorado."


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