The glass is half full

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

The numbers themselves aren't terribly impressive: Seventh place, one game over .500. Blah.

But when you consider all that's gone wrong through the first 20 games of Edmonton's season, and everything else that could have gone wrong as a result, it's amazing they're not lying in the gutter with St. Louis.

They had just six home games in the first 20, their starting goalie pulled a Perdita Felicien out of the blocks, they lost two thirds of their first line and three of their seven defencemen to injuries, Michael Peca landed in Edmonton with a thud, before sitting out with a concussion, and they were 3-7 after 10 starts, with eight of their next nine on the road.

After all that, 10-9-1 at the quarter pole ain't that bad. It's not great, but the worst appears to be over and they don't have to dig themselves out of an early grave.

"The glass is half full," is how general manager Kevin Lowe sees the ledger. "We figure we built a team that was better than '03-'04, a team that's capable of making the playoffs and doing some damage and I've seen that team in spurts, but we need to see that team more consistently for me to be truly satisfied."

As well as the Oilers navigated their ship through those early stormy waters, Lowe still laments a handful of points that got away with last-minute blunders, like in Colorado and Nashville.

'THAT'S DISTURBING'

"I'd like to be five points better because we were in position to get those points, so that's disturbing, but we made some changes and brought in new faces and they're all learning how to win together.

"Going on the road after the seven game losing streak, I said if we can come home .500 we'll be in good shape."

And here they are, very much in the mix.

"I like the makeup of the team," said Lowe. "Obviously, one game over .500, we're not going to sit back and relax, but guys are finding roles for themselves and contributing."

Twenty games into their new surroundings, Chris Pronger and Michael Peca are starting to look more comfortable.

We haven't seen Pronger's mean streak or much in the way of offence, but 30 minutes a night of calm, mistake-free hockey in which they're not getting scored on is a good way to ease yourself in.

Peca seemed out of sorts in an offensive capacity, but appears more at home lately after Craig MacTavish recast him in the checking role he played on Long Island.

"We're happy and we think they're going to get even better as the season goes on," said Lowe. "They've given us a chance right now."

The youngsters Edmonton was counting on to pick it up a notch this season, for the most part, have. Jarret Stoll and Raffi Torres don't have the kind of veteran consistency Ryan Smyth brings, but they have delivered timely offence. Marc-Andre Bergeron is the real thing. Ales Hemsky, in those flashes of brilliance that seem to be occurring more and more frequently, is emerging as a star.

The goaltending situation remains a loose end, only not as unnerving as it once was thanks to the solid work of Jussi Markkanen and Mike Morrison.

ANOTHER LOOK AT TY

"Jussi has been everything we hoped and Mike Morrison is once again proving that he's an NHL-type goalie," said Lowe. "He hasn't done anything to disprove it, so good for him, and good for us."

But they still have to take another look at Ty Conklin before making any long-term decisions there. "He played well in Hamilton, got his game under him and unfortunately hurt his groin," said Lowe. "So we'll have to get him healthy and see what he has."


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