Stoking Cole for offence

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- With the Carolina Hurricanes, he was used to busting in on goal off the right wing.

It was his trademark.

Now as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Erik Cole is being asked to do it off the left wing.

It's been different and not as effective as first anticipated.

So tonight, the winger is going back to the right side when the Oilers take on the Vancouver Canucks.

"I think when you're on the right side, it's easier to protect the puck because you can use your body and keep the puck to the outside," Cole said.

"That's the way I've always felt comfortable with it. And on the defensive side of it, you can use your puck to protect the puck along the wall.

"If you're shoulder to shoulder to them, you can either move with them or drop into them and you're either going to draw penalties or create space for the other guys."

As a right-handed shot playing on the left side of the ice, it was always going to be an adjustment for Cole.

But with Ales Hemsky locked in as the Oilers top right winger, the only way to get the veteran on the first line was to move him to the left side.

On the power play it has worked well, but at even strength, the entire unit as struggled to produce offensively.

The Oilers have scored just one goal in their last two games and will shake up the lines tonight in an effort to snap their two-game losing skid.

"We talk about breakdowns defensively, but we have to score goals," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"You can't stand pat for too long when you're not winning games and not getting much offence.

"We'll make a few changes and try to find something that gives everybody a little more pop offensively."

Robert Nilsson took Cole's spot on the left side of the top line beside Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff at yesterday's practice.

Cole skated on the right side of the third line with Marc Pouliot and Ethan Moreau, while Dustin Penner moved to his natural left side on a unit with Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner.

"We knew it was always going to be a process and we needed time to get comfortable with each other," said Cole of playing on the top line.

"But Horc is coming back from not having played in seven months and to have a new linemate with a new dynamic, it'll definitely take some time.

"Who knows? Maybe it will be better if we switch it up. We're not trying to figure each other out, we're trying to figure out our own issues out there."

Despite starting the season with a 4-0 record, the Oilers were lucky to beat the Colorado Avalanche on opening night and needed to come back from a pair of goals against Calgary to pull out another victory.

In Chicago, the Oilers had trouble generating any offence, and while the effort was better the next night in Colorado, goals were still hard to come by.

"I've never viewed it as a huge stretch to move (Cole) over to the left to play them with those guys," MacTavish said.

"But he's played the right side for a lot of years, although I haven't really minded his game, the last number of games, he's getting offence. But we'll see what he can do over on the right side.

"But it's more in essence to find some chemistry with Horc and Hemmer (Hemsky)."

The problem has been compounded by the inability of the other two scoring lines to generate offence.

The loss of Fernando Pisani also necessitated a juggling of the lines.

The Oilers centre did not make the trip to Vancouver with the rest of the team, instead flying home to get treatment on a back problem. He sat out Thursday's game in Denver.

"It's okay if one line goes soft offensively, goes with out scoring, but now the second line is not productive either," MacTavish said.

"That confirms that we have to make a few changes."


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