SUN Hockey Pool

Medusa has struck

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

MONTREAL -- If they were surgeons, with hands like that, any of their patients fortunate enough to still be above ground would be hanging by a thread in a malpractice lawyer's office.

If they were artists, with those cinderblocks at the ends of their arms, they couldn't get work painting mustard and ketchup on buns at Burger World.

And if they were goal scorers, their team would be stuck in a very dangerous slump, their power play would be spotty and absent when needed most and their coach would be running out of ideas.

Oh, wait, they are goal scorers. Sorry about that. Honest mistake.

I mean, it's not like you can tell by looking at their numbers.

"It's tough to say why," said Joffrey Lupul, one of too many Oilers to count who hasn't been near good enough offensively. "More than anything it's just bad luck that everyone's going through this at the same time."

Basically, anyone not named Petr Sykora, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth and Jarret Stoll is in a tailspin. Those four have 23 of Edmonton's goals; everybody else on the team has 15.

Some aren't paid to score, like Matt Greene and Jason Smith, but for those who are - Lupul, Shawn Horcoff, Raffi Torres, Fernando Pisani - it's like all of their hands dried up and turned into cat litter.

Good thing they didn't get Cup rings last year - they'd have nothing to wear them on.

"It's one of those things where we wish we weren't in this situation," said Fernando Pisani, stuck on two points for the season. "But the only way to get out of it is to keep working hard - getting everything to the net and simplifying your game."

HOT HANDS TOGETHER

Head coach Craig MacTavish, with one win in his team's last five games, has rejigged the lines once again, putting the hot hands together - Smyth, Sykora and Hemsky - while dropping Lupul down to the third line with Stoll and J.F. Jacques.

MacTavish and Lupul, who has three even strength points in 13 games, had a long talk after practice yesterday in Montreal.

"He was basically saying we need a little bit more from me," said Lupul, who agrees. "It's just been a bit of a tough start. I don't think I can blame it on being in a new place or a new city.

"Right now, I'm just not getting the results.

"Sometimes I find myself getting the puck and getting rid of it just to get rid of it, and I'm sitting there thinking why did I just do that? That's not how I play. I have to get it in my head that I can make a little more of a difference."

They all do. For all the pre-season talk of their high-powered offence, it simply hasn't materialized so far (tied for seventh in Western Conference goals).

Whether they read the clippings and assumed they were better than they are is irrelevant; what matters now, and what they know for sure, is they need to be better than they have been.

"Maybe our work ethic hasn't been where it should be," said Pisani. "No matter what your skill level is you ultimately have to work hard."

MacTavish is hoping a little more determination around the net, in Lupul's case, and a few breaks here and there, for everyone else, can swing the momentum back to where it was when all these guys were scoring at will in the playoffs.

ALL HAVE PLAYED BETTER

"We've all seen them play better offensively," he said, adding confidence plays a key role in the success of a mid-level goal scorer.

"They're very complete players, all of them, but they're not prolific goal scorers. To provide that offence you have to be a confident player and they're lacking that.

"Guys like that need some things to go right for them."


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