Getting started

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Good start?

Or not?

Arguably more than any other team in the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers are an outfit which needs to get off to a good start.

Have they?

Or haven't they?

The Oilers have opened with a tough enough schedule. They've come out of it at 4-2 and 3-0 at home. Softer spots on the schedule ahead of them.

They're 3-2 in a tough division featuring the best goaltenders in the game. And Jussi Markkanen, who wasn't considered one of them - at least before his job in relief in the Stanley Cup final - came within a couple of minutes of getting a shutout in his first game in goal. He left the rink wearing the 'ugly jacket' previously worn by Ryan Smyth, Petr Sykora and Dwayne Roloson.

NOT SO SHABBY

Even if the Oilers scored two on their first two shots and didn't accomplish a whole heck of a lot the rest of the night in winning 2-1 against the Vancouver Canucks, if you didn't have to watch it, it wouldn't sound so shabby.

But the back-to-back, home-and-home games against the Canucks were not a good advertisement for either team.

But

Craig MacTavish thought about that a moment in his post game media scrum.

"I think so," he finally declared.

"We have a good percentage of wins and losses. There are lots of teams below us. It took us until our 11th game to get our fourth win last year."

That said, he paused again.

"Not that there isn't lots of room for improvement. If we played at this same level for the rest of the year, we'd be in trouble.

"We have a lot of individuals who are struggling out of the gate. We know their play is going to get better."

Looking like the team we watched go all the way to Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final in their opener against Calgary, they haven't been hitting on half the cylinders since.

"We're getting the points but we're not playing well," said Ethan Moreau, who scored his first goal of the season which he hoped will be a slump-buster for the third line.

"That's better than playing well and not getting the points. We've had some experience with that," he added, relating to last year's games lost by gawd awful goaltending and years before that where everybody had to play well to get a win.

"We know we haven't played well yet. We're smart enough to realize that.

"We're going to come back to work, determined to get better," he said of getting ready for Detroit Saturday night.

"Not enough players are playing to their potential so far. But we're winning games.

"We're determined to be a 100-plus point team this year, and to do that, we have to win a lot of games when we're not playing well. We've been doing that."

There is something to be said for playing poorly and winning.

"We've found ways to win," said Steve Staios, the first star of the game for setting up the goals at 0:51 and 3:01 of the first period.

"We're determined to get off to a good start and open the playoffs at home because we found out in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final how important home ice advantage is. That's what we're shooting for."

CURLING!

They can all list the reasons for getting off to a good start and convincing themselves that they're not going to go back to playing for eighth place on the final weekend of the season as they've done so often in the last decade.

But there's another reason they need to continue to get off to a good start in the standings and continue to play .667 hockey or better all season:

The World Curling Championships.

Due to the big rock concert, the Oilers will play their final six games on the road. They'd better have their playoff spot long since secured by the time they take that trip. And after that end to a schedule, they'd be wanting to open the playoffs at home.


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