Mood and momentum

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

With the conference as tight as it is, and the games as close as they are, it's going to be a season of mood swings and momentum changes.

Get used to it.

All hope can seem lost on a Monday, and by Saturday night you're eying home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

"I've never seen the league like this in all my years watching it, two through 15 so close at this late in the season," said Dustin Penner.

Neither has Sheldon Souray. With virtually every team in the West just a two- or three-game run away from a playoff spot, nobody's out of it and no one can sleep easy. Heading into last night, Minnesota led the Northwest Division with 40 points, Edmonton was out of the playoffs with 35.

"I've never had to really scoreboard watch this early in a season," said Souray. "Calgary goes six games in a row on the road. Wow. It's going to be tough. And they're not going to get any easier for the rest of the year.

"We're going to have to worry about us and hopefully put the pressure on other teams. Get over the hump, get into the playoff picture and stay there. It's going to be up to us to see where we end up."

"It's going to be a rollercoaster ride," added Dwayne Roloson. "But we're confident in our abilities, so we try not to look at it in terms of four-game win streaks or three-game losing streaks. You have to try and look at it, as cliche as it sounds, shift by shift."

SHOOT TO THRILL: Head coach Craig MacTavish held a shootout drill at the end of practice yesterday, an audition of sorts if the Oilers should decide to change up their penalty shot lineup.

"I don't think I'll make that decision till I have to," he said, adding the practice shootouts can reveal a lot.

"It's always a point of observation with the coaches to see who has the aptitude. There's always a player or two who look like they're ready for it."

Kyle Brodziak looked good, beating Mathieu Garon on back-to-back shots.

"It's a little different in a game," admitted Brodziak, who hasn't taken a real shootout attempt since the minors.

"I guess if you do it all the time, you get over it. If you shoot once every two years, then you're still a little nervous."

GOALIE SHUFFLE: With both Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson coming off games in which they allowed one goal against in 65 minutes, MacTavish has a tough decision when it comes to tonight's starter.

Or does that make it a easy decision?

Either way, there doesn't appear to be a wrong answer.

"It's unusual that two goalies are not only playing a similar amount of minutes, but at that exceptionally high a level," said the coach, who can't overstate the value of netminding.

"We all know that, in today's game, if you're getting outplayed at that position, the chances of you winning are very slight."


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