SUN Hockey Pool

Get outta town

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

Oilers' Ryan Smyth is checked into Dallas Stars' goalie Marty Turco by Stars' Philippe Boucher (43) during a game last Friday at Rexall Place. The Oilers haven't had much jump in their game recently.

As frustrating as Friday's 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on a blown call by Mick McGeough was, Edmonton Oilers' GM Kevin Lowe has some other issues with what unfolded that night.

"Unfortunately because of a bad call, we lost points," Lowe said.

"The fact of the matter is I thought Dallas was the better team.

"We have some guys who aren't playing up to our expectations and, I'm sure, up to their expectations."

Punctuated by McGeough's gaffe, the Oilers have lost four of their last five games and sit at 7-6-0 as they prepare to open a five-game road swing in Montreal.

Outshot 14-5 in the first period, the Oilers spotted the Stars a 2-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes and spent most of the night playing catch-up before McGeough's botched call cost them a point.

"I think it's probably good for us to go on the road and try to correct some of that and get back on top of our game," offered Lowe, despite his team's 1-4-0 record away from home.

"We've seen some good things. We'd like to be a win or two better right now, but it's a long season and I believe this group is what we thought in the summer and the beginning of the year - very capable of winning its share of games."

So, what's happened during this recent slide?

"We have a bigger opinion of ourselves in terms of playing a complete game," Lowe said, talking about sub-par starts in first periods against Nashville and Dallas.

"It's not a lack of effort, but, in my mind, we're not winning enough puck battles. It's all about puck possession. We're not capitalizing on our opportunities."

No call-ups yet ...

Despite the slump, the loss of Ethan Moreau to a shoulder surgery and the demotion of Alexei Mikhnov to Wilkes-Barre of the AHL, Lowe doesn't have any immediate plans to dip into the minors for help.

"There's some guys playing real well, but it's a little premature," Lowe said, asked if he's looking to shake things up by slotting a youngster or two into the line-up in place of a veteran.

"We're really happy with the progress of guys down there. The fact of the matter is, some of the guys who are playing poorly are veteran players. You have to cut them some slack.

"They're not doing it intentionally. They're either struggling or in a bit of a slump. You start pulling stunts like pulling out veteran guys and replacing them with young unproven guys, you run a risk of losing credibility within your organization."

Around the rink ...

With Mikhnov demoted and Moreau on injured reserve, the Oilers roster sits at 22, one under the 23-man limit, with Jan Hejda being the lone extra defenceman and J.F. Jacques the extra forward . . . The road trip will see the Oilers play five games in seven nights, including back-to-back games twice, so expect back-up Jussi Markkanen to get two starts during the swing.


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