How Lowe can you go?

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- When reporters descended on the Edmonton Oilers dressing room yesterday, most of them were glancing in the direction of goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

After back-to-back losses to the Vancouver Canucks and with his team having won just twice in its last nine games and crawling down the stretch on hands and knees, Oilers GM Kevin Lowe had his gaze set elsewhere as the pack filed past him bent on the goaltending angle.

"I think it's time for our leadership, for the guys who have been around for a few years, to take hold of this team and not be afraid of losing and start winning hockey games," Lowe said.

After a 4-1 loss to the Canucks in Edmonton Tuesday and a 4-3 setback in a shootout at General Motors Place Thursday, there was no question Lowe was not impressed as he talked in a hallway outside the dressing room.

"Now's the time for our leadership group, and that includes a lot of guys, to come up now and respond and have a big game," Lowe said.

"What concerns me about our team is there's two mindsets. You can have a mindset of wanting to win. There's a mindset of being afraid to lose. You can never win if you have that mindset of being afraid to lose. You've got to play to win."

There's plenty of evidence to support Lowe's contention his team isn't getting enough gamesmanship and leadership from its veterans.

The Oilers got rattled by some early questionable calls by referee Marc Joannette at Rexall Place Tuesday, then hacked, elbowed and roughed their way through the rest of the game, handing the Canucks 10 power play chances. They took themselves out of the game.

'YOUR LEADERS'

"Any time you're playing important games, you want your veteran players, your leaders and your good players to bring their best games," captain Jason Smith said. "We're in a spot now where we need to put a solid stretch together."

Ethan Moreau took three minors Tuesday and is struggling mightily with just one goal in his last 31 games. It hasn't helped that he's been playing on a badly sprained right ankle.

Michael Peca has just one goal in his last 19 games in a continuation of what's been a miserable campaign in terms of offence. Steve Staios is minus-7 in his last 13 games. Todd Harvey, brought in to grind and agitate, is a minus-5 and has just 24 penalty minutes.

"You've got to do a little something extra in these big games to make a difference," Moreau said. "You've got to find a way to contribute when it counts."

CLEARLY BEEN A FLOP

Moreau gets some slack for his ankle. He's going as hard as he can. Peca has played better lately, although he's clearly been a flop based on his own expectations - he and coach Craig MacTavish figured he'd be good for 20-25 goals this season. Peca has eight.

There are mitigating circumstances, to be sure, but the bottom line is that veterans are expected to carry more of the responsibility when things are going south, like they are now. That's part of the gig.

The Canucks, losers of six of their last seven games before beginning this three-game set with the Oilers, held a team meeting last Monday to clear the air.

The Oilers, notwithstanding a 15-minute closed door session after the 4-1 loss, haven't felt the need to do so.

"We've talked about what we need to do and what kind of situation we're in," Smith said. "You can yell and scream in the room, but if you don't take it out on the ice, it doesn't make much difference."

With a dozen games to go, all Lowe knows is that a reversal of fortune is needed. He's looking at the veterans to lead the way.

"There are times over the course of a season when a team needs that," Lowe said. "Whatever the coach's game plan is, making sure it's adhered to by the players.

"We need more," Lowe said. "Just more."


Videos

Photos