SUN Hockey Pool

Back-end blues for duo

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

DETROIT -- Ladislav Smid might want to put a lock on the back door.

The young defenceman and his veteran partner Steve Staios have been roasted on this trip, on for six goals against in the last two games - almost all of them the result of leaving opponents unguarded on the far side of the crease.

Doug Weight and Brad Boyes had nobody near them when they scored in St. Louis Tuesday, and Sergei Zubov and Mike Modano potted easy tap-ins on them in Dallas.

"Rough night," admitted Staios as the Oilers checked out of their St. Louis hotel yesterday morning and headed for Detroit. "You don't want to be out there for goals against, it's something you take pride in, so I took it pretty hard.

"Normally you come out of games like that with a loss, and we didn't, so we feel fortunate. But we have to continue to keep working and be patient, especially around the front of the net."

Smid, benched for the third period in St. Louis, knows he has to be more focused deep in Oilers territory.

"Mac T knows that when you're a young guy you're going to make some stupid mistakes," he said. "I'm young and I have to learn a lot, you learn your whole hockey life."

Aside from the glaring errors that he's had to fish out of his own net, Smid's overall game is better than it was when the Oilers cut him in training camp. That's a positive, but he can't keep giving up two or three a game.

"I've noticed that he has played better overall," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who has a decision to make on his blue line now that Dick Tarnstrom is ready to go. "He's doing a lot of the things he needs to do to improve. We haven't really seen the results the last few games, they've struggled as a pair, really, but I've noticed he's playing a lot better than what he was playing.

"He's playing more physically, he's carrying the puck more. I think it's just one of the phases that happens through the course of the year, but I still see lots of improvement with him."

WELCOME BACK: So much for easing him into the lineup. In his first game after two months out with a shoulder injury, Sheldon Souray played 27 minutes, was plus 3, took eight shots on net, scored a goal, doled out some big hits and dropped St. Louis's Jamal Mayers with a left hook in the third period.

"It's going to be nice to get in a few games in a row and see how I feel," said Souray. "But after one I'm pretty happy. It was a lot of power play minutes, so the minutes weren't too hard. And I'm probably in better shape now than I was when I started the season after Charlie got ahold of me for two weeks (of skating after practice)."

He's a welcome addition in just about any area you care to name.

"He defended very well, moved the puck well," said MacTavish. "He had a big impact - physically, killing penalties, power play. He took some bumps and he's fine."

Souray admitted it had been so long since his last Oiler game he felt like he re-established himself as part of the team. Scoring a goal in his first game back was a big help.

"You have to take what they give you," he said of the power play goal off a booming point shot. "I started moving the puck to the middle and nobody moved toward me, so I really had a whole lot of time to shoot. I'm glad it went in."

And the gloved punch in the yap that floored Mayers showed he isn't afraid to mix it up, although much of Edmonton's training staff was holding its breath.

"(Athletic therapist) Kenny Lowe tore a strip off me when I got back to the bench," he grinned.


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