SUN Hockey Pool

Oil licking their wounds

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It's not easy having a spring in your step after you've just been kicked in the groin.

But the Edmonton Oilers don't have the luxury of curling up in a ball and waiting for the pain to go away after taking one between the pockets Thursday night. They need to get on their feet, walk off that agonizing loss to the Vancouver Canucks and rediscover their strut in time for this afternoon's do-or-die date with the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place.

"We all felt (dejected) when we woke up in the morning," said head coach Craig MacTavish after practice yesterday. "You have to get over that quickly. We're approaching this much the same way I would in a playoff series ... You have to get over it and start building for the next game."

Win today and they have a slim chance of making the playoffs. Lose and they'll be free to curl up all they want.

This is it. And when the entire season boils down to one game, there's no time for self pity.

"We're trying to keep it loose and keep a positive attitude," said rookie Sam Gagner. "At this time of the year, you can't really harp on things too much because the next game matters so much."

In an effort to lift their spirits, the coaches showed the players a blooper reel from the past season, which should have been fairly easy to compile given the fact they spent much of the year in 13th or 14th place.

They all had a big laugh at themselves and each other, put the Vancouver defeat to bed for good, and zeroed in on the Avalanche.

"The coaches said don't dwell on (Vancouver)," said Dustin Penner, still chuckling at some of the season's wackiest moments. "We had a good laugh at some of the video, it lightened everybody's day."

MacTavish knew he had to do something, given the devastating result against Vancouver.

"I thought it was appropriate timing to raise the morale of the troops as much as we could," he said. "If we'd won that game, we'd all be skipping through the parking lot. (Yesterday's mood) is a little less than that, obviously.

"You try and work through the day, try and build the energy back up and maybe we'll be skipping to the parking lot (tomorrow), who knows?"

The numbers don't look good. Edmonton's tragic number is five. Any combination of Oilers losses in regulation and Colorado wins totalling five and it's over. With 14 games left (seven each), there's virtually no room for error. They're looking at a 5-2 finish themselves, and hoping the Avs go 2-5.

And that doesn't even factor ninth place Nashville into the equation.

"We just have to worry about our games and not look at the standings," said Penner.


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