Last year's lesson learned

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

There's nothing like going 2-18 in the final 20 games of last season to really lift your confidence.

But, believe it or not, Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish draws a lot of positive reinforcement from last year's stretch drive, when a club decimated by injuries managed to avoid total humiliation.

Edmonton went 2-17-1 during last year's limp to the finish, but six of the losses were by one goal, two more were by two goals (with empty netters)and they only lost by more than three goals twice.

Granted, that's not even enough to count as a moral victory, but if the Oilers hung in there when they didn't even have enough healthy players some nights, after scraping all the way down to junior, to ice a full team, MacTavish doesn't think they should be counted out just because Sheldon Souray, Raffi Torres and Shawn Horcoff are out.

"Last year's run proved one thing to me," said MacTavish. "If we could compete with that lineup, we can win with this lineup. We were close last year in a lot of those games. We'd lose by a goal, but we were competitive."

To everyone's surprise.

"I remember the feeling in the building; our fans were thinking we were going to get killed, and midway through the first period, they're like 'We're in it. Wow!' They got behind it and it was kind of a synergy there."


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