MacTavish trying to make Oilers winners again

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

Consolidate the poop.

Amalgamate the caca.

Phrase it however you want. The message from Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish couldn't be any clearer than what he said yesterday after putting his team through a vigorous workout at Rexall Place in the wake of Friday's 7-1 drubbing from the Colorado Avalanche.

While MacTavish was somewhat willing to give his team the benefit of the doubt as loss after loss undid a promising start that included three consecutive wins, that's not the case now.

With a rematch against the Avalanche Tuesday and the Oilers on a six-game losing slide - the team's longest since a nine-game lurch in 1995 - as they open a three-game trip in the Mile High City, MacTavish didn't leave much to doubt after bag-skating the boys yesterday.

"We all know the situation," he said. "There's going to be big-time changes if we don't get our shit together. Excuse my language. We've got to get our shit together and we don't have much time to do it. Any questions?''

EFFORT AND EXECUTION

For those in need of a translation, MacTavish isn't going to stand idly by for very long if he doesn't see marked improvement in effort and execution in several areas from his team, which now sits at 3-5-1.

While MacTavish is willing to write off Friday's embarrassment as a hideous one-off - he called it a "stand-alone product for ineptitude" - and is leaning toward throwing the same lineup at the Avs Tuesday to see if his players are bent on redemption, his patience is not without bounds.

MacTavish prefers his players muster what it takes to turn things around. If that doesn't happen, what happens next becomes rather obvious - it will be time for GM Kevin Lowe to go to work.

"I can shake up the lines, but I don't know that I will, as of yet," MacTavish said.

"We'll probably give the same lines an opportunity going into Colorado. But, as you saw (Saturday), if it's not working, we'll be doing something."

Since knocking off Colorado, Vancouver and Anaheim, the Oilers have been beset by several shortcomings - spotty goaltending, a powerplay that went from hot to not and an offensive attack that's managed just eight goals in the six losses.

Some nights, sieve-like stoppers scuttled decent efforts. Other nights, lack of offence was the culprit. At other times, lack of intensity or execution has been the undoing. Saturday, all the wheels fell off in unison.

"We've never all gone bad at the same time," MacTavish said.

"In the Phoenix game, we were all bad for two periods. The same was true (Saturday). We were just ..."

While goaltenders Jussi Markkanen and Ty Conklin have taken heat during the slide, MacTavish isn't hanging the half-dozen defeats at the doorstep of his stoppers. There's plenty of blame to go around.

"You get in a situation where the team is in need of a goaltender to win you the game and we're not getting it," he said.

"The goaltender is in a situation where they're in need of the team to win them a game so they can get a foothold and get some confidence. It's a bad combination, and something's got to crack for us to turn it around."

BLAMING THE TEAM

Markkanen gave up the first three goals against the Avs Saturday.

He then sat, while Conklin allowed the next four, before returning to mop up.

"I blame the team, because the team has got to be good enough, if you're worth any salt whatsoever, to win a game for your goaltender," MacTavish said. "The fact is, we're not getting enough offence.

"The opposition is having no problem getting pucks to the net. If you're a good teammate, the last thing you want to have happen when your goaltending is having an off-night is to let pucks get to the net."


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