No panic over poor preseason

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

It's only preseason.

It's only preseason.

It's only preseason.

No matter how many times fans repeat the traditional exhibition game mantra, they can't help getting nervous when their hockey team looks like something a goat spit up.

Which brings us to the Edmonton Oilers.

With one win to show for their first five preseason games, and an embarrassing 4-0 loss to show for their last outing against Calgary, is it time to worry?

Maybe a little. For a club that bills itself as a surefire playoff team, they sure haven't looked it.

"We're talking the talk, but we're not walking the walk," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who gave the troops a pretty good scolding after Tuesday's defeat.

"It's time to get some urgency in our game. It's not a time to panic or think that the sky is falling, but it is a time for everybody to inject some urgency into their game."

The Oilers had their top six forwards dressed against the Flames and still only managed 12 shots through the first 40 minutes.

"It's not just (the Calgary game), there were stretches in those four games in a row," said MacTavish.

"If you're not able to win battles along the boards and not able to move the puck quickly, you get the results we had the other night. There's some things that we need to do better tactically."

The veterans agree the team hasn't looked great.

And while it's only preseason, they know they have to step it up if they're going to be ready for a schedule that has them playing 12 of their first 15 on the road.

"I don't know if any player can say OK, here we go, the regular season is going to start, my game is going to be there," said Shawn Horcoff.

"It doesn't work that way. While I don't really put too much into (results), I just want to see good habits and we don't have them yet."

That Edmonton pitched a stinker after MacTavish gave them the weekend off didn't sit well with the coach - nor should it.

"And the fact it was Calgary rubbed some salt in the wound," said defenceman Sheldon Souray, adding he agrees with the wake-up call.

"He's been pretty lenient on us, he's given us a bit of latitude because he respected that we came to camp in shape. But other teams did, too.

"If we're going to get that kind of freedom, he wants to see effort and good habits, and there wasn't a lot of that last game.

"The record doesn't mean anything - we were 5-2 in the preseason last year and look what happened.

"But you don't want to see bad habits creep into your game even though the games don't mean anything because it does set a tone, it sets a mood for the beginning of the year.

"We'll be better."

Horcoff says lack of practice time has the team looking a little disconnected right now, but there will be enough time between now and the season opener Oct. 12 to straighten things out.

"We came to camp and had two intersquad games, then four games in a row, then we had the weekend off," he said.

"I think these next two weeks are really going to help us. We need to get back into good habits and that comes from practising hard.

"It's going to be nice now to skate every day with the same line."


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