SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers find missing ingredient

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Shawn Horcoff has been around long enough to know the difference between Edmonton Oilers teams that too often came up short against the Vancouver Canucks in the past and the outfit that boasts a 5-0-0 record against them going into tonight's opening faceoff.

Confidence.

"It's not that we thought we couldn't win," Horcoff said of seasons past. "It's just that we knew that we'd have to play near-perfect to win. That was the feeling. Now, we're confident in here.

"It was hard to compete with Dallas and Detroit and Colorado. We have a strong feeling now ... first and foremost, we just need to get into the playoffs. It doesn't matter who you play.

"The division is so strong that, one through four and five through eight, whoever you're playing, you're playing a team that's capable of beating anybody."

With an opportunity to sweep a season series from the Canucks for the first time in their NHL history in the next three games, the Oilers don't feel like the out-gunned underdogs they've too often been.

That's a confidence, Horcoff says, that goes all the way back to the August trades that landed Chris Pronger and Michael Peca.

"When we got Pronger and Peca at the start of the year, that was big stuff for us," Horcoff said.

"We knew we had the ingredients in here then. The fans and the media probably didn't think so because they hadn't seen the guys with the year off, but we knew we had it in here."

New faces

Pronger and Peca aren't the only new faces from the Oiler team that won eight of its last 11 games in 2003-04 but came up short in a playoff bid when the Canucks beat them 5-2 at General Motors Place.

There are no fewer than 10 players in the dressing room who weren't around back then - Pronger, Peca, Dwayne Roloson, Sergei Samsonov, Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom, Rem Murray, Todd Harvey and rookies Matt Greene and Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who has yet to play.

"With those additions, and with the deadline deals with Sammy and Rollie coming in, it was huge," Horcoff said. "With Dick and Spacek coming in, they fit in right away."

Masked man

Roloson will stick with the all-white mask he's been sporting since arriving from the Minnesota Wild until his new face gear, adorned in Oilers colours, arrives.

Roloson, who has been making do with a few Oilers stickers on his mask until now, is having his new version painted by an artist in Boston who's done work for him in the past.

AROUND THE RINK ... The Oilers need six wins in their final 14 games to reach 40 victories for the first time since 1987-88, when they had 44 and went on to win their fourth Stanley Cup.


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