SUN Hockey Pool

Shoot! That's tough

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers are tied with the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead in games decided via the shootout, with nine.

With a 5-4 record in the win-loss ledger after Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss against Columbus at Rexall Place, the Oilers are split when they are asked if deciding games one-on-one is the way to go.

"Excited isn't one of them. Nor is it likely to be one of them," said coach Craig MacTavish, asked to describe his emotions during the shootout against the Blue Jackets.

"Hopefully, we get to the position where the points aren't that critical and the tension can be replaced by excitement, but that hasn't yet occurred."

Thursday's shootout took the Oilers and Blue Jackets eight deep into the order before a poke check by Marc Denis on Shawn Horcoff made a goal by former Oiler Jason Chimera stand up.

It was an exciting bit of business after a yawn-inducing display through 65 minutes that provided very little in the way of high-tempo shinny or quality scoring chances. It certainly gave fans something to talk about on the way to the parking lot, but ..

"Any time you're on the losing side it's a bit tough to deal with," said Horcoff, who was trying his hand in the shootout for the first time. "If it brings more fans to the game, makes it more exciting and brings a little more interest, I'm all for it.

"As a player, personally, you like to see the game decided on the ice rather than just by the individual."

Of course, while the NHL head office and rules committee ponders the popularity of the shootout and fine tunes changes and innovations that have been introduced, there's always room for improvement.

"I was talking with one of the guys on our team today," smiled Michael Peca. "He was asking if they could clear the building before the shootout starts so he could feel a little bit more at ease."

NO-HITTERS? Steve Staios has been stiffed by referees twice in the last four games for throwing two solid hockey hits.

Staios got the gate for interference in Anaheim Jan. 25 for a clean check on Travis Moen of the Mighty Ducks along the boards. Interference? Moen had just touched the puck when Staios pasted him.

"I think there's a collective sense right now that we have to allow good, solid body checks," MacTavish said.

"It seems to me watching some of the games anything that's significant and any real, good solid hit, albeit clean, is being called. They are erring on the side of calling it."

Thursday, Staios was whistled for elbowing against the Blue Jackets for a shoulder check behind the net. Their was no elbow involved.

"There's got to be consequences for players who don't have the awareness they need to have," MacTavish said.

"When you get caught with your head down in a dangerous area, you should expect to be punished."

MOREAU MENDING: Ethan Moreau's sprained right ankle has the look of a purple turnip, but the hard-nosed winger said yesterday it's coming along.

"Structurally, it's pretty good," said Moreau, who is walking with the aid of crutches. "Nothing that requires any further attention, like surgery. It's not great, but it's not devastating, either."

Moreau injured himself playing basketball with teammates at a fitness club in Phoenix Monday morning. There's still considerable swelling and bruising, but X-rays have revealed there's no fracture.

He'll miss the team's five remaining games before the Olympic break and hopes to be ready when the Oilers resume their schedule March 1 against the St. Louis Blues.

"It's going to be sore for the rest of year probably, but it shouldn't affect me past the normal healing process," Moreau said. "It feels pretty good. I'm really confident the way it's responded the last two days."

AROUND THE RINK: Mike Morrison was between the pipes for an optional skate at Millennium Place yesterday, while Ty Conklin, who hasn't seen action since Jan. 14, opted to stay off the ice ... Igor Ulanov (knee) also used the day to work out rather than skate.


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