SUN Hockey Pool

Kids getting the call

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

DALLAS -- With Raffi Torres, 24, Jarret Stoll, 23, and Jani Rita, 24, lining up together against Dallas tonight, it's tempting to call them The Kid Line.

Of course, with the Oilers winless in their last seven and Craig MacTavish running out of options, the Skid Line is probably more appropriate.

MacTavish has searched for solutions in just about every other combination, to no avail, so he might as well see if this trio of youngsters can do what his veterans haven't - win a game for a team that's forgotten what winning feels like.

Either that, or he's showcasing Rita for a trade. One way or another, the first-round Finn is going to get a lot of ice.

"The young guys have some promise,'' said MacTavish, who's getting more production from Stoll and Torres, second and third behind Shawn Horcoff in team scoring, than any of his big veterans. "Sometimes it's good to put young guys together because they don't feel they have to get the puck to the veteran. They can relax and talk among themselves.

"Jani's played OK the last little while, so we'll see what he can do.''

Torres is a streaky scorer who tallied twice, his team-leading fifth and sixth, in the loss to Colorado. Stoll is tied for the team lead in points and is dynamite on faceoffs, but hasn't scored since the first game of the season while Rita, in seven minutes of work a night, hasn't accomplished much at all.

ALL THEY HAVE

It's kind of a patch work cavalry, but until GM Kevin Lowe, who was on the phone all day yesterday, swings a deal, it's all they've got.

"They're inconsistent,'' said MacTavish. "But the situation we have them in is we need them. We need them to play like veterans because of the role they're cast in right now.''

The trio, who played together in Hamilton during their AHL days, are looking forward to the opportunity, and the challenge.

"I like it,'' said Rita. "Young guys have lots of energy and want to prove something in this league. We have speed, especially Raffi, he flies on the wing.''

"If we can work off each other we can be effective,'' added Torres. "I'll just keep trying to do what I've been doing; driving the net and trying to get some to go in off me, if not, get rebounds.''

It could be interesting, but they all know enough to know this mess isn't going to be fixed by three guys in their early 20s.

"The younger guys, maybe the guys you wouldn't expect to score, have to start putting the puck in the net,'' said Stoll.

"With our team it has to be a full team effort, four lines, six defencemen and our goaltender. We're not going to win any other way. At the end of the day we have to win together. It's not going to be one line.''

DESPERATE FOR WIN

Right now they'll settle for anything. Either turn this around in Dallas, where they've only won two of their last 22 visits, and 8-1 Nashville, or take a nine-game losing streak back to Rexall.

"The players know what's expected of them,'' said MacTavish.

"They know what their shortcomings are, why we're losing. We've pointed them all out, we've shown the video, we've gone over it and over it again.

"It's my perception now that we're all on board, but as of yet I haven't seen it.''

He needs to tonight, while there's still time to repair the damage in the standings.

"It's still early enough in the year,'' said MacTavish. "I know people don't want to hear that, I don't want to say it, but we still have an opportunity to play ourselves out of this. There's so much opportunity out there. You look around the league and there are a lot of teams struggling. You get your (stuff) together and you're going to make up ground in a hurry.''


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