Epic record from an epic trip

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Fourteen days, seven games, two concussions, a fractured orbital bone, three different starting netminders, a woeful collapse and a near-miracle comeback after it began ... the longest road trip of this, or almost any other Edmonton Oilers season, is over.

After starting out on their heels, with visions of this thing turning into a death march when they boarded an Oct. 29 flight to Nashville, they're back in Edmonton with a nice little spring in their step.

"We dug it out of the trash there early," said head coach Craig MacTavish, whose club lost to the Predators, beat Carolina, beat Philadelphia, coughed up three third period goals in a loss to Columbus, almost came back from 5-0 in a loss to Pittsburgh, then closed out with one-goal victories over New Jersey and the Rangers.

"The Columbus game was the one real bruise on the trip, but we're reasonably happy."

"It was an up and down trip," agreed Sheldon Souray. "The Columbus game is one we should have had, but we'll take (4-3)."

They should. To be 8-6-1 after playing 12 of their first 15 games on the road (against 12 teams that are over .500) is a solid, solid start.

"We knew it was going to be a unique situation, playing this many games on the road to start off the season," said defenceman Steve Staios.

"You always look back at one or two you wanted to get, but overall we played some good hockey and we learned some lessons along the way."

LEARNING LESSONS

Like how to battle back when it looks like you're dead and buried. They were flirting with disaster when the trip-opening loss in Nashville extended their drought to four games, but posted back-to-back wins in Carolina and Philadelphia to right their ship.

"We came in not playing so well and we did a really good job of turning it around," said Kyle Brodziak. "We made some big strides. I think we carried that over into the last two games. We were really able to define ourselves as a team."

They almost threw the trip away again in mid-stream, blowing the lead in Columbus and showing up 40 minutes late in the Pittsburgh loss, dropping to 2-3 heading into New Jersey and New York, but once again they yanked it out of the trash.

"The last two games showed our resiliency because sometimes it's tough to pick yourself up off the mat (on the road)," said Ethan Moreau.

"Winning the last two games, back-to-back against New Jersey and the Rangers, not a lot of teams are going to do that. And not too many teams are going to win in Philly in the second game of a back-to-back either.

"Our wins were great, our losses weren't. That's kind of the way the Oil likes to go sometimes - we make it hard on ourselves."

Six of their next 11 are still on the road, but the hardest part is over. As long as they don't spit things up in the next couple of weeks, they leave themselves in great shape to really make a charge.

TABLE WILL BE SET

Not that there's any guarantee they'll actually charge. The Oilers never seem to make anything easy on themselves, but the table will be set to do some good things.

Eighteen of 24 games from early December to mid-January are at home, and there's a 15-game stretch in there where they only play three road games, all short-haul singles to Calgary, Calgary and Vancouver.

"If we build some momentum on that homestand and keep playing the game the way it's supposed to be played," said Moreau, "we have the potential to win a bunch of games in a row."


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