SUN Hockey Pool

Like a bad horror movie

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

Not to suggest that things are looking grim, but there have been Friday the 13th sequels with more cheerful storylines than the bloody mess that Stretch Dive II is becoming.

They rose up last night, fuelled by adrenaline and anger, and upset the Calgary Flames, but you have to wonder how long the uprising can last.

Beaten down and beaten up, the Oilers are miles away from the playoffs, minus their leading scorer, minus their top defenceman and flirting with a repeat of last year's demoralizing 20-game funeral march to the off-season.

The training room looks like Jason just finished up with a room full of camp counsellors and the standings hurt even worse.

Any of this sound hauntingly familiar?

"I sure don't want the parallel drawn between this year and last year,"said head coach Craig MacTavish, after announcing that Shawn Horcoff and his injured shoulder will be joining Raffi Torres on the season-ending scrap heap (followed shortly, one would assume, by defenceman Sheldon Souray).

"I feel like last year it was a real stretch to win and get back in it. This year I feel quite different. I just think we're way better this year than what we were last year.

He's right, but claiming superiority over a club that crawled to the finish line with two wins in its last 20 games before finally coming to rest 25th overall is of little consolation to Edmonton fans who were hoping they'd seen the last of that big, black cloud with the oil drop on it.

Turns out it never left. From Fernando Pisani, Ethan Moreau and Matt Greene to Horcoff, Torres and Souray, and all the frustrating slumps and afflictions in between, it's been one kick in the chops after another.

SAVE THE SYMPATHY CARD

But they're not after any sympathy.

"I don't get wrapped up in a bunch of self pity or (want others to) pity our situation," said MacTavish, making it clear that yesterday's announcement on Horcoff wasn't also a eulogy for the Oilers.

"It's been strange, the amount of injuries that we've had, but you look around the league and we're not the only team that's fighting injuries to good players. Look at Ottawa.

"We just have to go out there and suck it up.

"Rally around it and win a hockey game here."

It's just as tough for Horcoff as it is for the Oilers. He was having a career year, an all-star season, legitimizing his place as a first line centre. And now it's all over.

He finishes with 50 points, one fewer than he posted in a year to forget last season.

"It's obviously disappointing," said the 29-year-old centre, who'd been fighting an injury similar to Souray's since the first month of the season.

"It would bother me for a week or two weeks ... and then it would feel good for three weeks.

"It was inevitable that I was going to need surgery. It was just a matter of when. It's to the point now that I can't compete, I can't play with it."

The final straw came at the all-star game, when he aggravated the injury by simply trying to break a fall.

"When it happens on something as easy as that, it was something that was inevitable."

OILERS AREN'T CONCEDING

But he, like his coach, isn't prepared to concede the inevitability of this season.

"I still have tons of confidence in the team that they're going to be able to compete out there," said Horcoff.

"The parity in the league is at an all time high - every night you can win games. All this team needs to do is get one good win under our belt, get some confidence from that and go on a roll.

"I don't get any sense that there's a loss of confidence in there.

"We all still feel like we have the talent and ability to win in here."


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