Running out of time

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Craig MacTavish and Joffrey Lupul have one thing in common. They're both at the end of their wits with Joffrey Lupul.

"I've lost my confidence completely," Lupul confessed after practice yesterday.

"I want to be playing well so bad. It's on my mind the whole day. Obviously this hasn't been close to what I expected coming into the year."

The Fort Saskatchewan native who came home as part of the Chris Pronger deal has been a bust, and he admits it.

"It's not like I don't care. I'm trying hard. I'm working hard. I'm playing hard.

"I just can't make plays. I'm not beating guys one-on-one. I'm not creating any space for myself. I'm not getting any breaks ..."

MacTavish admits he's running out of time with the player who scored 28 goals and added 25 assists last year with Anaheim after a 13-goal, 21-assist rookie season with limited ice time.

Getting Lupul going would go a long way to getting the Oilers going, but MacTavish can't wait much longer.

LOTS OF OPPORTUNITIES

"If this stays, I'll play two lines if I have to. If I have to roll two lines, I'll do it.

"Lupes has had his chances to succeed and hasn't. He now has to help himself be more effective.

"He's had a lot of opportunities to this point based on the way he's played in the past. Now it's getting to the point where we need to see production or his ice time is going to get cut back," he said of the player who has averaged 15:55 minutes per game.

"Lupes is a guy who needs open ice. He had some chances against Los Angeles when we had some open ice. But against Calgary and San Jose, where you don't get that ... he has to be more effective in closed ice. He's turning the puck over quite a bit.

"It's going to have to change pretty quick.

"If he can get hot, it would be a hell of a lift for this hockey club."

But MacTavish is at the point where he isn't going to hold his breath waiting much longer.

"Hopefully that can happen. Based on what he's done so far, I'm realistic.

"We have other options."

Lupul, who has 13 goals and seven assists after 49 games, says having only seven helpers just doesn't compute.

"In my rookie year I had 21 and I didn't really play that much."

Then there's the minus-14, which is only a good number after 49 if they are holes, not games, and you're on the PGA tour.

Lupul doesn't have a bone to pick with what's happened to him here.

"I've had my opportunities, no question," he said of the line combinations and the ice time he's had in general.

"I'm still getting the minutes. I've played with real offensive guys and I've played with real defensive guys. I haven't made it work."

And Lupul doesn't have a problem with being on the hot seat with the passionate fans here, having grown up as one of them.

"The city has been great. There are a lot of negative people out there, but there are far more people who are really supportive.

"A lot of players talk about this town about fans always concentrating on the negative but I find it far more the other way, to tell you the truth."

Lupul does have one hope here. In his first two seasons in the league, the bulk of his production has come late in the season.

BETTER DOWN THE STRETCH

"There's not really a reason for it. But I have always had better numbers down the stretch in the season and in the playoffs," added the 23-year-old, who scored nine playoff goals last year including four in one game.

The right winger who now finds himself on a line with Petr Sykora at centre and Toby Petersen on the other wing says he just wants to get it going and contribute to helping the team into the playoffs.

"If I can do that, then it will be a clean slate in the playoffs," he said.

Like another struggling Oiler, Raffi Torres, having proved yourself as a playoff player doesn't go very far if you don't play your part getting your team to the playoffs.

What it does do is get your name out there in trade deadline rumours.


Videos

Photos