SUN Hockey Pool

Another playoff run?

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson hopes to make another late season charge. (Edmonton Sun...

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson hopes to make another late season charge. (Edmonton Sun File/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

Playing frantic, desperate playoff hockey for two months straight probably isn't the best way to prepare for the actual playoffs - the Edmonton Oilers will be frazzled and running on fumes by April - but it's better to be dead tired than just plain dead.

So, even though they vowed last October this wouldn't happen again, they've left themselves no choice but to embrace the physical and emotional ringer of another come-from-behind, against-all-odds, stretch drive scramble.

"If we can get some games and put ourselves within striking distance, we're going to be in a good situation," said centre Shawn Horcoff, in full optimist mode after Saturday's win in Denver - Game 1 of what will be a 30-game sprint to the finish.

"Last year it was 22 games," shrugged netminder Dwayne Roloson.

"Right after I got traded, it was 22 games to make the playoffs. What's eight more? That's eight more chances to win.

"It's time to put the push on, to get some points and move up the ladder."

You have to admire their spirit, if not their situation.

16 ON THE ROAD

Of their remaining 29 games, 16 are on the road and 18 are against teams ahead of them in the standings. Lose more than 10 and they're probably done.

It's not a scenario that allows for many off nights.

"I know we have to put a pretty good stretch of games together," said defenceman Steve Staios.

"But we won three of our last four, had a big divisional win (over the Avs). We just have to continue to gain confidence, and a game like that should do it for us."

Six points back of Minnesota and Vancouver, and just two up on Colorado, the ninth-place Oilers, who've only won more than two games in a row three times this season, are longshots. How long is a matter of interpretation, but they're not spending much of their time calculating the odds.

"We're not worrying about that, we have to worry about the next game," said Roloson, who's going to be the key to their success in the latest run.

"Obviously you look at the standings, but at the same time we can't look too far ahead.

"If we win the next one it doesn't mean we're back in the race. We have to do it slowly and create the momentum we need to get back to where we want to be and where we should be."

The Oilers remain a one-line team (Horcoff, Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky have eight of Edmonton's 12 goals in the three wins since being reunited four games ago), and Jarret Stoll's availability has come in serious question after leaving games twice in the last two weeks with head problems.

And they have two wins in their last 11 against Northwest opponents.

But they hand out hope by the ton in February, and the Oilers are flush with it.

"Somebody said to me the other day, if you look at where we were last year, as far as points after this many games, I think we were close," said Staios.

Last year they had 63 points (28-18-7) after 53 games, this year they have 56 (26-23-2). And last year they won just 13 of their last 29 games, but snuck into the playoffs on the final weekend because Vancouver was even worse down the stretch, winning just 12 of its final 29 games.

.500 WON'T DO IT

Another sub .500 stretch simply won't get it done.

And they'll have to be a lot better against all those Northwest teams surrounding them in the standings.

"We haven't been great against them, that's no secret," said Horcoff.

"But we can forget about all that. If we're good against (the Northwest) in the remaining (11)games we play against them, if we can go .700, .750 against those guys, we'll get in the playoffs."

It's a longshot, but it's their only shot.

"It's almost like everyone has a clean slate now," said Roloson, who thinks the hour-long team meeting in Vancouver put them in the right place mentally.

"I think it aired out a lot of dirty laundry.

"We all voiced our opinion about what we need to do, and we believe in it."


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