SUN Hockey Pool

Injuries, mistakes piling up for Oilers

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

Craig MacTavish yesterday characterized the Edmonton Oilers last few games before the Olympic break as "limping to the barn."

In a different era the humane thing to do, given the way MacTavish's injury-riddled team has struggled, would be to take them out behind the barn and end the misery with a well-placed slug.

Failing one between the eyes, and given the long lineup of wounded at the door of athletic therapist Ken Lowe, MacTavish can only hope some mental focus will take the edge off the physical carnage when the St. Louis Blues come calling at Rexall Place this afternoon.

"We just have to play a smarter game collectively," said MacTavish. "We have some inexperience in our lineup, which doesn't help in that regard, but we need a more intelligent game from everybody.

"That's the only we can survive. The good news is we're going to get a break after tomorrow. The bad news is it doesn't start until tomorrow after the game. It couldn't come at a better time for us."

FRIDAY'S MESS

Friday's 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild was a mistake-filled mess by the Oilers, who have been short-handed without injured veterans Jason Smith, Michael Peca and Ethan Moreau and are clearly out of gas.

They'll also be without Marty Reasoner and Igor Ulanov today against the Blues. With a line-up full of holes, the Oilers had to call up Brad Winchester and Mathieu Roy from the AHL just to ice a full team today.

"Any time you go through a stretch where you have lots of injuries, it's harder for everybody who's in the lineup," Smith said.

"You get players who play lots of minutes already who get a little bit more ,and you get your younger guys who haven't been playing big minutes and have to play more as well.

"The quicker your team adjusts, the better you do. It's a challenge."

For all their injury problems, the Oilers haven't been as badly off as several other teams, but the absence of key veterans in concert with the fatigue that's accumulated through 57 games has been a challenge.

ALL-TOO FREQUENT

The Oilers have lost two of their last three games and have allowed 16 goals in that span and more than 30 shots against in each game. The mistakes have been too frequent in all areas of the ice.

"This time of the season, there's lots of bumps and bruises and guys have to play through it," Ulanov said.

"Everybody is looking forward to getting a rest right now for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, it'll allow our guys to get back in the lineup after the break."

At 30-20-7 for 67 points and seventh place in Western Conference standings, the Oilers have work to do before they get to the break, even if the Blues are bottom-feeders. St. Louis has points in four straight games (3-0-1) after a 3-2 overtime loss in Calgary Friday.

"I fully expect us to go out and play and learn from the mistakes we made the last three games," MacTavish said.

"When the energy isn't there and you're battling some injuries and you're not playing intelligently, it's an impossible combination to overcome.

"We're not going to get healthy, but we've got to get smarter."


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