Searching for a hero

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- They need someone to step up and score the big goal.

Earlier this season that someone was usually Shawn Horcoff.

But the Oilers forward is not getting the same bounces he was at the start of the year and is therefore currently going through his longest scoring drought of the season.

And nobody else has been able to fill in, which is the reason the Oilers are heading into tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues on a six-game losing skid.

"What we need is the power-play to step up and to score a goal," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "We don't need any one guy to do it; we need to do it collectively. It's pretty clear that we're playing good hockey with the exception of the power-play."

Against the Blue Jackets, the Oilers were 0-4 with the man advantage. Yet they conceded a power-play goal and gave up a short-handed marker.

"We're not organized enough on the power play and if there's any disruption to our breakout, we freelance too much," MacTavish said. "We don't have a lot of improvisation skills there right now, so we have to do it like most teams do, by being really organized and running good routes.

"At times we do that, but if there is any disruption to that, then our power-play will break down."

The Oilers have the worst-ranked power-play in the league, connecting on 10.3% of their chances.

MISSING FIGURES

They are missing a key figure in Ales Hemsky, who is still at home nursing a knee injury. However, they will get Joni Pitkanen back for tonight's game. The Oilers defenceman sat out Monday's contest with a sore wrist and back - a result of going into the corner boards head-first thanks to a Pavol Demitra cross-check in Minnesota.

"He's gaining a lot of respect here internally with the way that he's battled and the way that he's played," said MacTavish. "He's played some hard minutes and I have a whole lot more respect for his game than I did in the middle of August, that's for sure. "

Pitkanen was acquired by the Oilers this summer from the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade that sent Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith the other way.

He's already surpassed his goal total of last season, having scored six this year in comparison to four in 77 games with the Flyers. He should help out the power-play unit, even if it's just getting the puck into the zone.

OUT OF SYNC

"Unless you have everybody in harmony and in sync on the powerplay, you're going to run into problems unless you have someone that can go get the puck and gain the line," MacTavish said. "With the exception of having Joni do that occasionally, we really don't have that player."

Sheldon Souray was supposed to be the Oilers' big power-play weapon this season, having scored a record-high 19 power-play goals last year with the Montreal Canadiens.

However, a shoulder injury has limited him to 15 games this season and he only has one-power-play goal in that time.

Jarret Stoll, who had six power-play goals last season, also has only one this year.

Going into St. Louis, Dustin Penner leads the way with five power-play goals, while Sean Horcoff has four. Yet Penner has just one goal in his last nine games, to go along with Horcoff's recent struggles.

"Just 10 games ago, pucks were going in and everything was great," Horcoff said. "When it's not, it's obviously frustrating, but you have to find a way to not get frustrated. I think we're starting to get frustrated and when that happens, it's not conducive to making plays and scoring goals. I think we have to relax a little bit and make sure when we do have our chances to put them in."


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