SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers deserve better luck

Edmonton Oilers' Ethan Moreau (right) runs into Toronto Maple Leafs' Bryan McCabe during first...

Edmonton Oilers' Ethan Moreau (right) runs into Toronto Maple Leafs' Bryan McCabe during first period action at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., last Saturday. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- The Edmonton Oilers deserved better fates in virtually all of their games against Eastern opponents, but there's no room for excuses in the stats column, just a nasty little ledger that reads two wins in six games.

Three of those four losses were in shootouts or overtime, and they totally outplayed Toronto last Saturday, but, again, it's two wins in six tries.

With just four inter-conference games left in their schedule, including a road trip that begins tonight in Pittsburgh and concludes Thursday in New York, head coach Craig MacTavish is determined to right some of those wrongs.

'SHORT END OF THE STICK'

"We have really been on the short end of the stick in those Eastern games," he said, well aware that the Oilers outshot the other teams 137-97 in the four losses. "We played terrific against the Islanders and lost, we played very well against New Jersey in the last two periods and ended up losing that game. We played well against Boston at home and lost and we outplayed Toronto and lost that game. We have to find ways to win these games."

Their only wins have come against Philly and Montreal.

"I want us to come out and grab hold of our season again," MacTavish said of the trip. "We want to put ourselves where we're back to first place in the division and setting up a huge game Saturday night against Ottawa. You do that by having two great games. Anything short of that will be a disappointment for everybody."

As far as MacTavish is concerned, as soon as Edmonton plugs a couple of its holes, they'll be as good as any team.

"I think we're really close to being the best team in hockey," he said. "It's a struggle in a few areas, but when you're as close as we are and that weakness is revealed, you're going to address it - and we will. I think long-term we'll be in really good shape."

Greene machine

Rookie defenceman Matt Greene will stay in the lineup, but will lose his defence partner when Cory Cross draws in and Igor Ulanov takes a seat tonight. For the time being, MacTavish will swap Ulanov and Cross in and out because Greene is playing too well to sit.

He's safe, tough and has a sense of gamesmanship and intensity that you can't teach.

"He's played good, reliable minutes for us," said MacTavish. "And the experience is going to help us down the road to get a player who's going to maybe be more reliable than some of the guys we have here at this time. I think that much is clear to me and most people who see the games (see) how well he's played.

"I'm excited by him and the progress he's made in a short period of time. I want to see him lots. It might be a platoon situation for the other two while Greene is getting the experience. The other two are veterans who can be in and out of the lineup without too much negativity."


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