SUN Hockey Pool

Broken down 'D'

ROBIN BROWNLEE, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

The first car I owned was a 1964 Chevrolet Belair, a pea-soup-coloured beater I paid $80 for in 1975.

The tires were bald. The brakes were a memory. The transmission was on its way out. The interior smelled of cat urine. The front seat was covered with a blanket you might find in a Mexican bordello.

That said, the heap didn't break down as often as the Edmonton Oilers team defence has lately, and the wheels never fell off the damn thing the way they have for Craig MacTavish's outfit the last eight games.

Flogged the crate for $300 after stuffing the glove box full of those green tree air fresheners, dolling up the seat with a cheap-o cover and loading the tranny with gear lube and sawdust to muffle the grinding.

After watching the Oilers get lit up 7-4 by Los Angeles Thursday, it's obvious it'll take more than that to dress up a defence so full of holes even my oil-burning lead sled could drive right through 'em.

POSITIONAL PLAY

What a wreck.

"It's easy to put a finger on it when you analyse it," MacTavish said.

"It's our positional play. We've really got away from the solid fundamentals that carried us to quite a bit of success.

"We've got to address those fundamentals again and start executing at a higher level positionally than what we've done."

After getting blitzed by the Kings and allowing 32 goals during an eight-game stretch in which they have won twice, the Oilers held an optional skate at Rexall Place yesterday. They broke down film. They had a team meeting.

No word if they invited Dwayne Roloson, or left him on his own the way they did the night before.

"We, obviously, haven't been as good defensively as a team," said captain Jason Smith after a game in which Shawn Horcoff and Petr Sykora were both minus-4 against the Kings.

"That's from defencemen to our forwards being back and in a good position in our end. Everybody relying on each other that you can be confident to do your job and the results we want we'll get."

POINT-BLANK SHOTS

It's not often teams give up as many Grade-A chances as the Oilers did against the Kings. Point-blank shots. One-timers from the slot. Chances around the net where forwards wheeled with no fear if they'd be knocked on their pants.

"I think in certain situations we've been too passive and in certain situations we've been too aggressive," Smith said. "When you're too aggressive, it normally leads to being out of position a little bit.

"We're probably spending a little too much time in our own zone . We were in good positions and we weren't giving up premium scoring chances. In the last group of games, we've got away from that."

The problem is, Thursday isn't a one-off. The Vancouver Canucks can only hope the trend continues tonight.

"It's the defencemen who usually get pin-pointed, but it's everyone," said Joffrey Lupul.

"You need your centres down there working and your wingers, too.

"I think we have to collapse down a bit lower and if we have to give up some shots from the outside, we've got to count on our goalie to make those (saves).

''They can't be one-timers from the slot like they have been."

While the Oilers sit a respectable 12th in goals-against with 102, they've allowed fewer than three goals just twice the last eight games. They've given up 25 or more shots in seven of those.

"We've had lots of opportunities offensively, so I'm not concerned and reasonably happy with the offence," MacTavish said.

"It's tough to get seven or eight goals a game and that's what we're needing the way we're playing in our own end."


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