Time to get down 'n' dirty

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

For Craig MacTavish, it's about effort.

And right now, the Edmonton Oilers are not exerting enough of it. Especially when it comes to scoring.

According to their head coach, the Oilers are not willing to pay the price.

"The issues I have with our team right now is soft, high-risk offence," said MacTavish. "We've got to get harder, we've got to simplify our attack.

"Everybody knows that there can be intense defence in those scoring areas and we're trying to saucer pucks through those areas instead of penetrating those areas offensively."

The Oilers have been shut out twice and have managed just four goals in their last four games.

They're supposed to have three scoring lines, but at the moment, are all struggling.

"We're cutting corners," MacTavish said.

"We have to get back to the details parts, the tough parts. And I don't care how big you are, you have to go to those tough areas if you're going to score goals. We're not getting there often enough.

"It's a common mantra for teams that are struggling offensively to get commitment to those tough areas. When you're not scoring, perimeter offence is not the solution. You have to get to those tough areas."

On Monday the Oilers wasted a 35-save performance from goaltender Dwayne Roloson in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins.

They managed 27 shots in the contest, but their best chance to score came when Erik Cole bounced a shot off the goal post.

Ales Hemsky was also robbed by Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas on a give-and-go with Robert Nilsson.

"The players that we have are able to create offence," said captain Ethan Moreau.

"They are going to be able to win games for us. (Sam) Gagner and (Andrew) Cogliano as well as (Shawn) Horcoff's line are going to be able to win four or five games in a row for us. But it's just not happening right now."

After having started the season winning four straight, the Oilers have now dropped their last four.

Today they head out on a 14-day, seven-game road trip.

It starts in Nashville tomorrow night against a Predators team that has scored 29 goals in eight games. Conversely the Oilers have 17 in that same span.

"We're having trouble scoring five-on-five," Moreau said.

"It's tough, but some of the best players in the world sometimes struggle producing five-on-five but they get a lot of production on their power play. It's a lot like special teams and goaltending. When that's not happening, you have to simplify your game and not give up a lot of chances.

"When you're scoring five or six goals a game you can be a little more creative with the puck, so our skilled guys have to start simplifying their games, as does everybody."

Hemsky has not yet scored a goal this season. Dustin Penner hasn't scored since netting two on opening night.

Cole, Fernando Pisani and Moreau have just one goal each, and Gagner has one assist.

The fourth line has also yet to score, with Kyle Brodziak and Zack Stortini still pointless. Marc Pouliot, the other fourth-liner, has two assists.

"I think we're trying to be too fancy and trying to make too many plays," Brodziak said.

"We've proved it to ourselves when we keep things simple and just throw pucks to the net, we'll get rewarded for it."

It sounds easy enough, but there's more to it.

"No, it's not that simple," Brodziak said.

"It doesn't make it easier, because you have to go to those tough areas of the ice, you have to find a way to get the puck through people, you have to shoot the pucks with bodies in front of the net. Keeping it simple doesn't necessarily make it easier."

With so much offensive talent on the roster, there is a sense that it's a matter of time before the team starts breaking out.

But MacTavish is starting to lose patience.

"These are the same themes that we keep going over and over with our team," he said.

"The same themes almost right from the first day of training camp.

"As a coach, you want to see your game plan being executed, your philosophy being executed and we haven't seen that with a great period of consistency.

"We have to get back to work. I've been patient to this point, but now I want to see the results."


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