SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers going back to kids

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Every time the Oilers score at home this season, and it hasn't been very often, a Kid Rock song blares from the Rexall speakers - a tie in, perhaps, to the offence they were expecting from the Kid Line.

But the kids haven't rocked at all this year. They haven't even rolled.

Instead, it's been a whole lot of blues, till they went a combined minus-11 with three points through the first five games of Edmonton's long road trip and Craig MacTavish broke them up faster than Yoko Ono split up the Beatles.

Well, the reunion tour is scheduled to open tomorrow against Los Angeles, when Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner will be together again.

"It's obviously pretty exciting for us," said Gagner, adding they don't want to let this opportunity slip through their gloves.

"We have a different attitude this time around. We really enjoy playing with each other and we want to make it successful. We're going to come into the next game with a desperation-like attitude. We have to be successful, we have to help this team win."

That was the plan in October, but the line found goals and points a lot more difficult to come by than they expected. By mid-November, when it became obvious it wasn't working, Gagner had two points in 12 games. Cogliano and Nilsson had five points each in 13. The writing on the score sheets made the writing on the wall redundant.

SEPARATION FOR REASON

"We all know why they split us up," said Nilsson, still kicking himself over the slow start. "You want to be as good as you know you can be, and when you don't really produce it can be a little bit frustrating. We'll see if we can do a little bit better job this time. We have to remember what we did wrong earlier this year and don't do it again. Obviously we can't be minus two or minus three a game."

They all agree they were being a little too cute with the puck, and when that didn't work they compounded the situation by trading in their confidence for added pressure.

"We came into this year and people were saying, 'They're a skilled line, they'll beat you with skill,' "said Gagner. "But last year, when we were successful, it's not because we were making unbelievable plays, it's because we were supporting the puck well and supporting each other down low - two-on-oneing people and getting chances that way.

"We have to continue to work hard like that."

Cogliano has been coming on strong with four points in his last four games. Nilsson's been a little better lately, and maybe being reassembled will be just the spark they all need.

"I think at the beginning of the year maybe we were just trying too hard, and right now we're at a point where we're just going to go out and play," said Cogliano. "I know I'm a little more relaxed now, the other guys are, too. If we get a couple of goals and start playing with a little more confidence we can definitely take off.

HAVE THE SKILL TO SUCCEED

"We have the skill to do it, so hopefully it works out. It's worked before."

They believe it'll just take one breakout game to get them all going at the same time, feeding off each other like they were last year.

"We did have chances when we were together at the start of the year, but we didn't score on them," said Nilsson. "We have to score on them. Everything gets a little easier when you score."

They hope.

"Hopefully they'll be all right, dig each other out of it," said MacTavish, who's seen so much from the line in the past that he had to give them another look.

"They can refocus on doing it together because they've had good chemistry in the past. Cogs is coming on now, he's played pretty decently the last little while. Bobby is starting to play a little better. They warrant another look."


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