SUN Hockey Pool

Home, cool home

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The crowd was so cool to the Edmonton Oilers when the home town team took to the ice last night, you'd figure it was an outdoor game.

Baby, it's cold inside.

It was a strange phenomenon.

The fans were clearly cheering for Rob Schremp to have success in his first game here this year. But they were giving everybody else in the lineup the cold shoulder.

"Yeah, I noticed that," said Sheldon Souray.

"Our fans have been waiting for something to happen. They've been waiting for something to cheer about. They haven't had much to cheer about here this year," said Souray.

The 16,839 stayed standoffish even after Shawn Horcoff scored a fluke goal 70 seconds into the game.

To be honest about it, they didn't exactly go goofy even when it was 2-0 and even 3-0 for, instead of against, at the start of the game, refreshing a change as that clearly was considering they'd been down 3-0 twice to Detroit and 2-0 to both Dallas and St. Louis in their previous six starts.

"We started good. It's much easier to play the game when you're up 2-0," said Souray.

It was supposed to be like this - the Oilers winning 5-2 at home against the Stars - on a lot of nights at Rexall Place this year.

And it took until Dec. 3.

That's a long time for a season-ticket holder to wait to see the home team play a good game or even a good first period.

"I'm pretty sure that's the first time we've scored five goals at home so far this season," said coach Craig MacTavish of the team that had managed to score seven one night in Columbus and five another night at Philadelphia.

This is a season which started with great expectations for the second coming of a reach-for-the-top team, capable of winning their division and playing host the first game of a playoff series.

With a 4-0 start, despite poor play, people were licking their lips about what it was going to be like around here on Dec. 11 when the Oilers settled in with 10 more home games than away games on their schedule.

LAST FIVE

And there's nothing wrong with their 8-8 record on the road.

But the Oilers came to the rink last night tied with the Stars in last place, having no wins to show for their last five games in the building. And only the Steve SmackIntyre game had sent the customers out of the building with a buzz.

They were 30th in a 30-team league in first period goals, 29th in shorthanded goals, 28th in faceoffs and they'd lost seven straight, and 10 of their last 11, to the Stars.

So it was understandable how the patrons might have been settling in for another unsettling game for a team that will play their 17th away game Friday in Los Angeles and their 18th Saturday in San Jose.

"There was a lot of pressure on this team for this game," said MacTavish, whose neck the lunatic fringe wanted in a noose - and probably still do.

"We're going back on the road for two games. We haven't played well at home all year. Sometimes that doesn't bring out the best in a team.

"But it sure helps us to come back into the building after having not won a game in that fashion. And playing a game like that at home is going to help us when we come back into this building for all those games after this trip."

Captain Ethan Moreau didn't go so far as to say a game between two current bottom-feeders could turn a season. But the alternative was to be dead last and still sinking.

It's one thing to have all those home games in the bank to play the rest of the way. But when you reek at Rexall, they're not worth much.

"All year we've been coming off road trips," said Moreau. "That's going to be different now.

"Now we can get rid of all the negatives. That's the most important thing.

"When you're having your character questioned and so many other things questioned, a negative energy takes over.

"When we get back from these next two games, a positive energy can take over here again."

It might be a while, however, until the pre-season giddiness returns to Rexall.\


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