Oilers getting penalty killed

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

CAROLINA -- There are a lot of things the Edmonton Oilers might struggle with, but penalty killing isn't supposed to be one of them.

A unit that ranked fifth in the NHL last season (second overall on home ice) has crashed to 30th in the early going this year. It has allowed a horrendous 13 goals on 49 power plays, including three in Sunday's 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's just a case of (the puck) finding the net on us," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who doesn't see anything fundamentally wrong, or different from last season. "Earlier in the year we weren't executing as well, but lately we've executed pretty well. You analyze where the goals come from and they're shots that you are going to give up."

Point shots just seem to be finding their way through the shot blocker, through traffic and through a screened goalie. And the seeing-eye goals are adding up.

"We didn't do a lot of things poorly, it's just that pucks were going in," said veteran penalty killer Ethan Moreau. "It can be as simple as that. There's a danger in over-analyzing it and starting to change things because they're getting goals.

"We could have done the exact same things and killed off four in a row in Philly.

"We'll have to look at it and make sure we're doing everything possible not to have goals go in, but there's times where sometimes a screened shot just gets through and goes in."

There's a pretty good chance they'll batten things down against Columbus tonight. The Jackets are two-for-35 in the past six games and, as one of the most penalized teams in the league, spend more time on the PK themselves than they do on the power play.

A MEETING WITH RAFFI

The Oilers are excited about facing off against former teammate Raffi Torres, who was just activated from a shoulder injury a couple of games ago.

"I look forward to seeing Raffi; he was a great Oiler," said MacTavish. "He played hard for us, he was a really good person and a great guy in the locker-room. He maybe had as big an impact as anybody in that run. He had the hit on Milan Michalek in the San Jose series that really turned that series around."

After missing more than eight months with a knee injury and five more weeks because of a separated shoulder suffered during a preseason fight, Torres came back with a bang. He was credited with 10 hits in his first game back Saturday against Chicago, despite playing only 10 minutes.

"When you're injured, you realize how much you love the game and miss it and want to get back to it," said Torres, who went to Columbus in an off-season trade for Gilbert Brule. "If anything, I have regained respect for the game, but I still have a lot of work to do."

Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock told Columbus reporters that he sees Torres evolving into a team leader.

"I was lucky that I learned from a lot of good veterans like Ethan Moreau and Michael Peca," said Torres. "Just saying a little can go a long way."

LAST SPECTRUM SIGHTING

The Oilers practised at the storied old Spectrum in Philadelphia yesterday, the last time they'll see the place before it's torn down to make room for a retail and entertainment complex.

"My first NHL game was at the Spectrum," said MacTavish, who spent five years in the Bruins system in the late '70s and early '80s. "Lots of memories. It wasn't a great place to play against Philly back in those days. It was intimidating in there ... there were guys who just refused to play in that building at times."

It was called the Philly Flu, players faking illness because they didn't want to be caught alone in the corner with the likes of Dave (The Hammer) Schultz, Bob (Mad Dog) Kelly, Don (Big Bird) Saleski, Mel Bridgeman, and Andre (Moose) Dupont.

"They had some epic characters," said MacTavish. "Behn Wilson was maybe the meanest guy that you've ever played against. People talk about a lack of respect in today's game? Give me a break."

Of course, the Big Bad Bruins didn't take too many backward steps either.

"We had some pretty good battles," said MacTavish, listing off Boston's muscle. "Terry O'Reilly, Al Secord, John Wensink, Stan Jonathan, Mike Milbury. I'm sure I'm missing three or four others.

"It was pretty neutral in terms of the toughness."


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