Shuffling the deck

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

After back-to-back losses to Chicago and Vancouver Craig MacTavish has decided that if you can't beat 'em, disjoin 'em.

So he dismantled all four of his lines yesterday and threw the players in a blender hoping that new surroundings will help them discover their missing touch.

"He's just trying to find different combos who can put the puck in the net because obviously right now we're not doing that," said Andrew Cogliano, who centred Ales Hemsky and Robert Nilsson in practice.

The Oilers are reasonably content with their effort, but feel like too many scoring chances are slipping through their cinderblock hands. A new look up front, they think, might help.

"Sometimes it's refreshing to have a different look when you come to the rink, sometimes it energizes guys,"said Ethan Moreau, who was with Sam Gagner at centre and Dustin Penner on the right side. "A different linemate who does different things can sometimes get you out of an offensive slump.

"Last game we lost because we weren't good enough offensively. We have to score more. It sounds simple, but we have to get more secondary scoring."

Secondary scoring wasn't supposed to be a problem with the Kid Line and the addition of Erik Cole.But Andrew Cogliano is the only kid who's been good all year and Cole, who's gone 15 games since his third goal of the season in early November, has been a bust of Jiri Dopita-Adam Oates proportions.

"He needs a better fit," said MacTavish, who now has Cole with Shawn Horcoff and Marc Pouliot. "He's taking some responsibility, too, but he needs a better fit."

Jason Strudwick, Kyle Brodziak and Zack Stortini made up the fourth line.

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Needless to say, the mood in the Oilers dressing room is rather sombre, a far cry from the high of a few days ago when their convincing 3-0 shutout over the Canucks made it four wins in five games.

"It's hard now, there's lots of frustration in there," said MacTavish. "It's one of the things as an athlete you have to work through. There's no place to hide. You have to go out there and play your best, calm yourself down."

Which isn't always easy in an environment like Edmonton, a city that lives and dies with each game.

"The last little while, when you start losing like we did, after every loss you run the emotional ladder," said MacTavish. "It's like, 'Oh, you'll never win another one.' And you question all the things you question when you lose, the coaching, the passion, the commitment, the skill, the training staff ... well, maybe not the training staff. But that's the world we're in. The expectations are high. You're one win away from feeling good and one loss away from feeling like there's a total lack of commitment.

"It's tough to play the game in that type of environment. We have to relax enough that we can make some plays."


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