Stuck in neutral

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

He is as reliable as ever killing penalties and he's been pounding the puck from the point on the power play as usual, but Edmonton Oilers' forward Jarret Stoll has yet to find his groove playing 5-on-5.

That's a facet of the game the 24-year-old from Melville has started to turn around, and Craig MacTavish will be looking for more of the same when the Chicago Blackhawks come calling at Rexall Place tonight.

"The key thing is making plays, handling the puck and creating chances," said Stoll. "That hasn't been coming the way I'd like, but you just have to work through it.

"When you get a puck, try to make a play. You're not going to get that confidence back by just dumping the puck in every time. You've got to get out there and make things happen."

CAREER HIGHS

Coming off a season in which he had a career-high 22 goals and 68 points, Stoll has had a so-so start with 4-10-14 and a minus-3 rating in 21 games. Half of those points, 2-5-7, have come on the power play. He's got seven even-strength points.

Stoll has managed just 1-3-4 in his last 10 games, a stretch that has seen him demoted to the fourth line between rookie Patrick Thoresen and Brad Winchester.

"He's working through his game," MacTavish said. "It's not as though I'm unhappy with his game. He still brings lots to the table. He's good on the power play. He's a good penalty killer.

CAN BE BETTER

"He's just got to get a little more done 5-on-5. He can be better for sure. I thought he started off slowly, then was really good and then dropped off a little bit. He's got to get a little bit of confidence back. He's just got to get a little better."

Even with his fourth-line duty, Stoll is averaging 17:38 of ice time a night thanks to his special teams time, so he's getting the chance to regain his form of 2005-06, when he averaged just over 18 minutes of ice time.

"Part of it is working hard in practice, too," Stoll said. "If you can get some confidence back in practice and take it into the game, you can maybe get yourself going."


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