SUN Hockey Pool

Don't look, just play

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- Don't look. Don't even think about it. Definitely don't do the math.

That's basically Craig MacTavish's message to his team as the Edmonton Oilers head into Game 5 of the 'Make Or Break The Season' road trip and/or Death Watch.

"I don't look at it one bit, nor do I want players to look at it,'' said the coach of the eight-points-out-of-the-playoffs team which has yet to win a game on this, er, killer road trip.

"I'm not a believer in long-term focus when the most important thing is the immediacy of the game tomorrow. It all points to the same thing. We need to win tomorrow, so why look beyond tomorrow? Get back and put some games together and then we can get into a situation where we can look longer term on it.''

A BUNCH OF IFS

But if you did look ...

If you did think about it ...

If you did do the math ...

To match the 95 points the Oilers required to finish eighth last year, they'd now need 33 points in their final 22 games.

That's .750 hockey the rest of the way. If there is hope there somewhere it's that they play the Minnesota Wild five times in the last 19 games, including the last game on this road trip and the next game back home after the Mark Messier banner raising night against Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes.

Other than that, where's the hope? Not in home games.

The Oilers still have two more games to play on the road than the 10 they have left at home.

Not in quality of opposition. The Oilers have only eight games left against teams currently out of the playoffs including tonight's tilt here against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"Unless we string a few games together, it's a lot easier to do what we normally do with a month to go, which is get all the teams that are in the race and get rid of all the games and colour-code it,'' said MacTavish. "But we can't do that yet unless we can get wins under our belt.''

Ryan Smyth, celebrating his 31st birthday yesterday without word on a new deal, said you just have to put on the blinders and go.

"Last year was last year and this year we have to make sure we make some headway here and take care of business.

"We control our own destiny and we still have a few divisional games. But obviously we have to start winning games.

"Everybody watches the scores down the stretch to see where everybody is at. At the stage of the game we're at, we've been watching too. But we can only worry about trying to win games."

OUT OF THE LINEUP

Since playing with several starters out of the line-up and nine players with less than two years of pro experience - seven of whom have played in the minor leagues this year - the Oilers have lost three one-goal games, one in overtime and another in a shootout.

But road kill is road kill and they now play three in four days: here tonight, in Detroit Friday, and Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.

To bring 'em back alive, you pretty much have to figure MacTavish has to win them all and go home and win the next two, too.

Otherwise, give them a blindfold and a cigarette.

And MacTavish wants them to wear the blindfolds now.


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