Top line bottoms out

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

Go-to guys who aren't getting it done often get the benefit of the doubt from the coach as long as the team is winning.

That pretty much describes the trio of Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky of late. And, likewise, the generous position coach Craig MacTavish is taking concerning the Edmonton Oilers top line.

Try as they might, Smyth, Horcoff and Hemsky haven't accomplished much the last five games, combining for just two goals and two assists at even strength.

It's a lack of results mitigated by some solid goaltending, contributions from other lines, and a 3-2-0 record -- MacTavish's top threesome might have ducked behind four wins had Igor Ulanov not hit Joe Sakic right on the tape in the third period of Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Colorado.

MacTavish wasn't of the mind to point fingers yesterday in the wake of waning production from Smyth, Horcoff and Hemsky, but you'd hope his largesse isn't limitless with Vancouver providing the opposition tonight in a better-win game.

MacT isn't sweating it.

"Not really," said MacTavish, when asked yesterday if he's concerned with a lack of production from the trio the last five games. "I wasn't caught up in the euphoria when they were producing two or three goals every game.

THE LONG HAUL

"I knew that, over the long haul, it was going to even itself out. I said at that time the scoring is great, but we're not a team that's dependent on one line to carry us. The balance of our scoring, we've talked about. We have it. We can win in spite of the fact one or two lines aren't producing as long as they aren't costing you in other areas."

The line is a combined minus-5 the last five games? Horcoff is minus-3, while Smyth and Hemsky are minus-1.

Horcoff leads the Oilers with 24 points. He hasn't scored a goal in 12 games, although he does have 11 assists in that stretch, including three helpers in the last five games.

Hemsky, second in scoring with 23 points, has just three goals in his last 13 games, although two of those have come in this last five-game segment.

Smyth, who has 20 points in the 20 games he's played, hasn't had a sniff in the last five.

"Maybe we're pressing a little bit, but it's not a lack of trying or effort," Smyth said. "It's a matter of playing smart and finding ways to create opportunities to score.

PRESSED TOO MUCH

"I want to score every game. I want to help the team. Personally, I think maybe I've pressed too much. You've got to find ways through that."

Horcoff's off to the best start of his career with his point-a-game pace, but after scoring two goals in a 4-3 win over Colorado in the season-opener, he's found the twine just twice since.

"We just need to relax and get back to what we do best," Horcoff said. "At the same time, I think we have created chances, they just haven't gone in at the same rate they were.

"It'll come. It's a long season. There's going to be ups and downs. It's just a matter of trying to get out of it as soon as we can."

Every line goes through lulls and slumps. While this last stretch qualifies as the former rather than the latter, Smyth, Horcoff and Hemsky didn't exactly threaten to bust out in Tuesday's loss. Smyth had five shots, but Horcoff had just two and the reluctant Hemsky one. Nothing went in.

"It's a matter of trying to stay consistent," said Smyth.

"If we could pinpoint these things it would be a lot easier. You could go out and contribute every night, but it hasn't worked out that way.

"As a line, we put pressure on ourselves to get better.

"We log a lot of ice time. We know we have to contribute."

Tonight would be a start.


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