Paying for their sins

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

With the Edmonton Oilers looking to end a three-game losing streak when they face the San Jose Sharks tomorrow, they might want to start with the theory that less is more.

In two of the three losses, the Oilers have hit double-digits in terms of the number of power plays they're allowed - they were shorthanded 10 times in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers and 11 times in a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres Monday.

They got away without too much damage at Madison Square Garden, giving up one power-play goal to the Rangers, but the Sabres made good on two of their 11 opportunities, including the winner by Maxim Afinogenov with one second left in Jarret Stoll's double-minor for high-sticking.

"We've got to be disciplined in the amount of penalties we're taking. It's just crazy," said coach Craig MacTavish after a vigorous skate at Rexall Place yesterday.

"You take a bad penalty, then you compound it where you get a high-sticking call.

"Those high-sticking calls are more accidental than intentional, but it magnifies the stupid penalty you take before. There's no discretion for the referee in that instance."

Prior to these last three games, the Oilers had allowed opponents 10-or-more power plays just three times.

Two of those instances occurred during the first four games of the schedule - when teams and officials were adjusting to new rules against obstruction.

Aside from the risk of fishing the puck out of your own net, a parade to the penalty box disrupts the rolling of forward lines and defensive pairings.

"We've had 45 games to get used to the rules," Ethan Moreau said.

"If we're going to have any kind of success, we have to eliminate those stick penalties.

"It's hard.

"Guys have been playing a long time using their stick a certain way, but it's a different game now.

"You have to re-learn. We have to find a way to collectively do a better job."

In the loss to the Sabres, Jani Rita, who doesn't kill penalties or get any power play time, played just 3:14. Todd Harvey got seven shifts for 3:21 and Fernando Pisani played just 7:57.

"It takes the fourth line out of it," MacTavish said.

"Then, you take your banging element out of it and you don't soften up the defenders at all.

"There are a lot of bad things, a lot of bad bi-products, that come out of taking stupid penalties and lots of them.

"Let's face it, you'll never win anything of any meaning if you take that many penalties. Never.

"It's a great lesson to learn and we have to learn the lesson, otherwise we'll be on the outside looking in in a hurry."


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