SUN Hockey Pool

Skate like the wind!

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Losing, given the dearth of talent and experience in the Edmonton Oilers lineup, is one thing.

Passively accepting that fate, mailing in half an effort and hiding behind what some players seem to perceive as a built-in excuse, is quite another.

OUT, OUT AND OUT

If they didn't realize Thursday night in St. Louis that it's not OK to be outworked, outsmarted and outplayed from now until they reach the April 7 finish line, they know now.

A day after commending their try in a loss to Nashville, Craig MacTavish let them have it for pulling the chute in a lifeless 5-2 loss to a Blues team just as injured, just as inexperienced and just as bad, frankly, as they are.

The coach had steam pouring out of his ears when the team boarded its bus for the airport in St. Louis, and hadn't cooled off any when they landed in Chicago.

So he vented, with little more than a few short bursts of a whistle.

On what was supposed to be a day off in the WindyCity, he bussed them 45 minutes to a suburban practice rink, punished them with 40-minute bag skate - not one puck ever touched the ice - then piled their exhausted carcasses back on the bus for an hour-long ride through rush-hour traffic to their downtown hotel.

"Pretty well merited, the way that we played last game," said Marty Reasoner, as the grim-faced players filed out of the dressing room afterwards.

"These are the consequences of not showing up. We deserved what we got."

And they got it good.

Laps, sprints, more laps, endless end-to-end rushes - anything MacTavish could think of to get their legs burning and their heads back in the game.

"He would have loved to give us the day off, but he couldn't," said Ethan Moreau, who took part in the punishment even though a shoulder injury has kept him out since the eighth game of the season.

"If you played hard and lost and you get skated, as a player, you get pretty mad. But when you know you deserve it ..."

"This is one of the worst I've ever had," said Toby Petersen, who knew they'd be in for it, given their play on Thursday and MacTavish's mood a day later. "But to be honest with you, I thought it was going to be even worse."

There are still four more games left on the trip and MacTavish doesn't want anyone in the room thinking it's a holiday. Injuries and inexperience don't exclude the roster from hard work.

On most nights, since being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Oilers have shown up and done their best.

But when you've lost 15 of 16, testing a coach's patience with a game like Thursday isn't wise.

"When you're playing the way we are it's only a matter of time till it happens," said Shawn Horcoff, adding bag skates sting mentally as much as physically.

"It's a kick in the asses more than anything. If the effort has been there, he's been very fair to us. If it's not, he's going to hold us accountable. And that's what happened today."

When it was over, MacTavish had a brief talk with the players. The message was no secret.

"He didn't have to say too much," said Reasoner.

"We have to be better. Our performance wasn't acceptable. It doesn't matter what situation we're in, we have to get our act together here. There's no excuse for not showing up."

OUT OF IDEAS

None that MacTavish is interested in hearing, anyway.

"Running out of ideas," he said, when asked what made him bring out the whip. "I was planning - if we had a good effort - to give them a day off. But, no."

Not after they mailed it in the night before.

"I don't care what state you're in, you can never rationalize that type of game."

---

ANATOMY OF A BAG SKATE

1:19 -- The players come out of the dressing room. There's not a puck in sight, They're skating slow warm up laps. Heads down. Nobody's talking. Everyone knows what's coming.

1:23 -- Tweet! MacTavish blows the whistle. Laps, hard between the bluelines.

1:29 -- Tweet! Full speed laps, in groups of five.

1:32 -- Tweet! More full speed laps, only clockwise.

1:41 -- Tweet! Water break. The players gulp from their bottles and skate slow laps to loosen the legs.

1:43 -- Tweet! Lightning drill. They break into two groups, facing each other at the opposite bluelines. One group at a time races to the red line, jams on the brakes, back to the blueline, jams on the breaks, to the red line, to the blue line, to the red line, to the blue line, to the red line, to the blue line, to the red line, to the blue line, to the red line, to the blue line. Back and forth 12 times. Nothing but leg-burning acceleration and breaking. Five sets per group.

1:50 -- Tweet! Water break. Slow laps to loosen the legs

1:52 -- Tweet! Break into two groups for length of the ice sprints. End line to end line six times each group. Five sets for each group. That's 30 lengths of the ice for each player. MacTavish has a stop watch to check that nobody's dogging it.

2:01 -- Tweet! Water break. They're barely moving in their slow laps.

2:04 -- Stretch out.

2:06 -- Lecture by the far boards.


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