SUN Hockey Pool

A run for the bubble?

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers are back where they started.

This time, however, coming out of the All-star break, they have fewer games to work with.

Prior to the National Hockey League's talent showcase, the Oilers went out on a five-game road trip with their record just under .500, looking to put together a winning streak that would vault them back into playoff contention.

What they did is end up playing the same as they had all year - losing as many as they won.

Now heading into the last 30 games of the season, the Oilers are a game under .500, needing to put together a string of victories to get them back into playoff contention.

"It's just a case of taking the games one at a time," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "We talked a lot about putting together a streak and we have to put together a streak.

"You have to take each game and collectively build your team game where you can go on a run like that, which most of the other teams have. Certainly the teams in our division have done that and we're the only team that has yet to put that together."

Going into tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m.) at Rexall Place, the Oilers are five points out of a playoff spot.

However, there are five other teams in front of them battling for that final spot - all of which have games in hand on the Oilers.

"We're going to have to have a real good run to get ourselves back in it," MacTavish said.

"We've played more games than most teams, so that's a negative factor obviously. But effectively we're five points out of it. You can make those up in a hurry if you rattle off a number of games and we plan to do that."

Tonight's game is the first of a four-game home stand for the Oilers, who'll also host the Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks.

Home has been good to the team of late.

Prior to departing on that five-game trip through the Southeast Division, the Oilers had won four of five at Rexall Place.

However this time around they'll be facing some tougher opponents. On the last home stand the Oilers played three teams in the New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes and Kings who were out of the playoffs.

"I think we're going to have to play a little more consistent," said Oilers forward Kyle Brodziak.

"We've been able to pull off two or three-game winning streaks, here and there and we always feel so confident after that.

"Then we'll manage to lose two or three in a row and we're pretty much back where we're started.

"If we can eliminate the two or three game losing skids we can get back into it."

The Oilers had put themselves in a pretty good position before hitting the road, winning four straight at Rexall Place and facing the worst team in the league in the Los Angeles Kings before setting out to tour the worst division in hockey.

But losing to the Kings then a subsequent shootout loss to the Washington Capitals, and humiliating defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes had the Oilers scrambling to get back to the break-even point.

Only a last-minute comeback against the Florida Panthers salvaged the road trip and kept their diminishing playoff hopes alive.

"It's too bad that we had the break coming off the heels of what was a great story for the team," said MacTavish.

"When you carry that good of a feeling out of that game, you want to play the next night. We unfortunately weren't afforded that opportunity.


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