SUN Hockey Pool

Killer instinct

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Killer instinct is the missing link.

Sooner or later the Edmonton Oilers gotta get it. And they just ran out of later.

Work? Got it.

Desire? Got it.

Talent? Got it.

Speed? Got it.

Toughness? Got it.

Depth? Got it.

Defence? Got it.

Goaltending. Need it.

Killer instinct. Need it now!

"We have to get that next goal," says Ethan Moreau. "You either have to get a stop or get the next goal. It's happened a number of times. Good efforts have been wasted because of it."

You could make a case - and I think he just did - that the two 'need it' items are tied together. And at this late date, if you can't count on the one, you damn sure better find the other.

If there was ever a time and place for killer instinct to kick in, this is it.

Last night in Calgary, the Los Angeles Kings lost 2-1 to the Flames. The Kings, who started their trip with a loss in Vancouver, are here tonight.

Everybody in the wild west playoff race will be hoping killer instinct finally kicks in for Edmonton tonight. An Oiler win would be great for everybody else. It'd effectively make a seven team race a six team race.

Killer instinct is having that hold-nothing-back, throw-everything-at-'em mentality.

KILLING WILL TO WIN

Killer instinct is also jumping all over an out-of-the-playoffs-team early and killing their remaining will to win.

"We don't make it easy on ourselves," said Ryan Smyth. "We talk about killer instinct. Why can't we make it easier on ourselves?I don't know what it is. We have to hope we have it for these last nine games."

The Oilers have had a one-goal lead in each of their last four games. Only once did they turn that into a two goal lead. It was their only win in regulation time.

"When we get that lead, we have to widen the gap. We have to get another goal," said coach Craig MacTavish.

"We've had chances to put teams away. We need pressure and intensity," says Steve Staios. "In Vancouver Saturday, when we got the lead, we kept pressuring. That's our strength. We're a pressure type of team. We have to keep going forward, keep pressuring on the forecheck."

The Oilers talk about it easily enough.

"We're very aware of the situation," said Moreau. "We need to jump on teams who are tired from playing the night before. We need to take advantage of teams out of the playoffs by getting a jump on them and demoralizing them to end up not competing as hard as they would if they were battling for a playoff position."

IDENTIFIED IT

They've identified it.

So why haven't they had it?

And how are they going to get it?

"Killer instinct is putting teams away and not making mistakes," said Kevin Lowe.

The Oiler GM said there was a point in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Minnesota when it was obvious to just about everybody.

"Minnesota was ready to lay down and die."

It wasn't obvious, however, to his hockey club. "That's where we lacked it."

He says it's all part of becoming a winner.

"You can't be afraid to lose. We're an attacking, aggressive team. It's puzzling why sometimes in those situations we play afraid to lose. From the 18th minute of the second period to the 14th minute of the third, we weren't getting any shots."

You could come to the conclusion that deep down this team doesn't see themselves as being more than the standings say they are. On one hand, just about everybody in the league concedes that if Edmonton had any goaltending they'd have pretty much put away first place in the division. On the other, this team has been in this same place for so many seasons it's like they think they belong there.

But Lowe doesn't buy that.

"The belief is there," said Lowe. "Fear is over-riding it a little bit. We have to say 'the heck with it' and throw everything at them and not be afraid to lose."

Easier to do when you've got goaltending.

But now they have to find it, regardless.


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