Practice first, fly later

Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon makes a save against the Canucks on Friday night. (Sun Media/Jason...

Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon makes a save against the Canucks on Friday night. (Sun Media/Jason Franson)

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

They were supposed to have the day off.

But a 4-1 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and a consequent four-game losing skid had the Edmonton Oilers back on the ice yesterday.

"I thought, given the situation, it would have been irresponsible for us to take the day off given the set of circumstances," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "I haven't been entirely displeased over the last number of games with our play, but obviously it's a results-driven business and we have to start having some success and this is part of it."

It hasn't been for lack of effort. The Oilers outshot the Canucks in both games of the home-and-home series. They have just been unable to score and their power play is an abysmal 1-for-25 through the first six games of the season.

"You just have to try and get back to the fundamentals to try and create some offence," MacTavish said.

"You do that through repetition in practice.

"We haven't been beating ourselves to this point and the effort has been pretty good to this point.

"But you have to put the puck in the net, that's the bottom line and we've had difficulty doing that, and we have lots of things that we can do to improve our proficiency there."

During the four-game losing skid the Oilers have only managed to score four goals. Conversely they've conceded 13 in losses to the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and Canucks.

The rookies have been solid. It's the veterans who are struggling offensively.

Andrew Cogliano leads the team in scoring with five points. Sam Gagner has four. But Ales Hemsky has yet to score a goal, as has Jarret Stoll. Dustin Penner has two points and Raffi Torres has one goal.

"The kids have been very productive," MacTavish said. "The veterans are working and executing things that we want them to do. It hasn't happened yet, but we're going to work our way through it. We all know that you need consistent offence, and to this point, we haven't been able to get that."

OUT EARLY

In an effort to jump-start the offence, the Oilers are heading out early for their two-game road trip that starts in Phoenix against the Coyotes on Thursday.

Following practice this morning they'll head out to Arizona and work on team building before taking on the Coyotes.

"We're going to build some chemistry in Phoenix," Penner said. "We have a lot of new faces on this team, a lot of young guys and we don't know each other that well. So this will be a great time to come together as a team.

"It's important. A close-knit team is a good one. From my experience, we had a close team in Anaheim last year and if you're having fun off the ice, you're going to have fun on the ice and that's going to translate into wins."

With a busy preseason and six games through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Oilers haven't had much time to get to know each other away from the rink.

Getting out on the road together, the plan is to get to know one another better.

"I think this gives us a really good opportunity to do some team-building things down in the desert and also some good, productive practice time," MacTavish said.

"We haven't had that with this group yet.

"We haven't had the opportunity to get everybody on the road when we're not busy playing or travelling. This is the first opportunity for that, much like the (Philadelphia) Flyers did when they took the team to Whistler, coming off a loss here. It worked well for them and we're hopeful it works for us."

STAIOS UNSTUCK: Steve Staios doesn't look any worse for wear after breaking his nose Saturday in Vancouver. The Oilers defenceman went into the dressing room and had his nose set by the Canucks team doctor after taking a stick in the face.

"When I hit it there was a pretty bad sound and I knew it was broken on the way in," Staios said.

"He put a lot of elbow grease into it, there was a funny sound and he was pretty happy with the result."


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