SUN Hockey Pool

Mathematical nightmare facing Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- You can't blame Ethan Moreau or Fernando Pisani for trying to ignore the standings these days.

The mathematics of the Western Conference playoff chase are enough to make a person's head explode, and the Oilers have enough injuries as it is.

"It's easier for a player to just take care of the task at hand," said Moreau, who'd rather not get caught up in the logistics of what it'll take to climb up from 13th place. "It gets a little overwhelming when you start to look at the standings and try to figure out how many wins you need. I think the best approach is to just worry about today."

TIGHT RACE

With as few as six points separating 13th and seventh, depending on what time of which day you're logging on to NHL.com, trying to predict who'll get the last couple of spots is like trying to decipher Japanese shorthand.

"I don't try and figure out the numbers because if we don't win it doesn't make any difference," said Pisani. "Our focus is on controlling what we can control - how we play on the ice."

The Oilers, for the past few days, have been hovering between No Chance and Half A Chance. It's a precarious place, where a well-placed win or a well-placed loss, depending on what happens in Nashville, St. Louis, Colorado, Vancouver and Phoenix, could have them chasing their psychological tails, if they let it.

But, as any sports psychologist who's been around long enough to pay off his couch will tell you, letting an out of town scoreboard dictate your emotions is a guaranteed way to burn yourself out. So most teams in the wild west are just lowering their heads and embracing the time-worn cliche about taking things one game at a time.

It's the only way to keep from going completely insane.

"It's exciting, every game is so important, you're kind of in the playoffs already," said Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo. "But, at the same time, I don't look at the standings every day because other teams are winning. You don't want to go through so many ups and downs emotionally; you want to stay focused on what you have to do to bring your best game every night."

All anybody knows is they can't afford to lose.

"It's getting tighter and tighter," said Daniel Sedin. "Everyone beats everyone, which is fun in a way, but it makes it tough. It's going to be a race all the way to the finish line. This is the way it should be ... as a league you want every team to have a chance to make the playoffs. It's pretty exciting."

NO CHOICE

Knowing their season will be hanging in the balance virtually every night from here on in won't be easy. Twenty-two straight playoff-style games is no one's idea of a fun time, especially when it's not even the playoffs yet, but nobody has a choice in the matter. If they don't throw everything they have at this seven-week stretch drive, there won't be any playoffs.

"You just have to keep plugging away," said Oilers' head coach Craig MacTavish. "We've done it in the past and we feel we have that experience to draw on. I'd rather be sitting here in Detroit's position, but it's a great experience for your team to be in games like this, all must win games.

"We have to catch a lot of teams, so it's going to have to be something spectacular from here to the end to do it."


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