SUN Hockey Pool

Plenty of work ahead for Oil

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers could have packed their bags and called it a season when centre Shawn Horcoff was lost for the year after shoulder surgery.

Throw in the fact there's a good chance defenceman Sheldon Souray might also need shoulder surgery, and the odds against them making the playoffs are stacked even higher.

But the Oilers are coming off two of their most impressive efforts of the season in victories over the Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames. And heading into Calgary tomorrow, there's optimism in the locker-room and a sense the season can be salvaged.

"Shawn is a big part of our team and obviously one of our best players," said Oilers centre Jarret Stoll.

"He's obviously a huge loss and we have to come together and we have to come together now."

The Oilers still have a lot of work ahead of them.

Going into last night's league play they were six points out of the final playoff spot with five teams to climb over. Tomorrow in Calgary they have a chance to get back to .500 for the first time since Jan. 13.

"It's three games in a row now that we played well," said captain Ethan Moreau.

"We played hard against Dallas, our special teams were just not where they needed to be. We feel like we have a little bit of momentum and we're playing the type of hockey we need to play to be successful."

After stinking out the joint against the San Jose Sharks in the first game of a recently-completed four-game homestand, the Oilers took it to the Dallas Stars physically in their next contest, outshooting them 33-22, but still losing 4-1.

Then against the Flames the Oilers posted their most lopsided win of the season, winning 5-0 before coming back to vanquish the Blackhawks 4-1 on Monday.

"It doesn't matter who's in your lineup, you just have to go out and compete hard," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "That's all really that we're asking and we've been getting it.

"You can't get any better full-scale effort than we've had in the last three games. I guess there's a lot to be said for that in terms of guys developing and being ready to take on larger roles."

Horcoff had 21 goals and 29 assists in 53 games before surgery ended his season.

Yet in the last two games without him, the Oilers have scored nine goals, with eight different players finding the net.

"We're going to miss him (Horcoff). He's our best player, he's a leader in the locker-room and he works extremely hard," Moreau said.

"I think we realize the fact that we might have to change our team a little bit, change our identity, play more of a gritty, tougher game to make up for the hole that he left. I think so far we've done that."

Calgary is currently seventh in the Western Conference sandings, seven points up on the Oilers.

"We responded well in our building and now it's going to be a big test going into their building," Moreau said.

"They're a good, tough team and hopefully we can initiate the physical play the way we have been doing, with a lot of energy and emotion.

"I think we're well-equipped for it. I think we need to play like that and they do as well. They rely a lot on their physical play and their energy.

" They're a very good team, a tough team, and it's going to be a good game."


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