Oilers attempt to regroup

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Ever wonder how the crew of the Exxon Valdez felt when they showed up for work the next day?

Or how the dudes at CN felt when they rubbed the sleep out of their eyes the following morning and realized the tanker spilling toxic goop into Lake Wabamun wasn't just a bad dream?

Bad day at work? There are about 20 guys in soiled blue hockey pants who can feel their pain.

Oil spills? Train wrecks? That's all anyone was talking about yesterday as Edmonton's red-faced hockey team opened its doors after practice and tried again, with no more success than they had Tuesday night, to explain that dreadful 10-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

Dreadful? Like there are any other kind of 10-2 losses?

"If you can imagine how a fan feels or a coach or management feels, it's always worse for the player," said captain Ethan Moreau, after a nearly two-hour skate. "We're out there responsible for the loss. As bad as people feel, as frustrated as people are, you can't match the way we feel. It's our livelihood, it's what we live with every day.

"A lot of our mood is determined by how we play on the ice and when you lose like that, it's tough. It's not fun walking around the city, trust me."

A day later they're still not sure what happened, only that it happened fast and there was no way to slam on the brakes once the cars started jumping the track and contaminating Rexall Place.

"Fans pay good money to come and see us perform, to be professionals, to have something to cheer about," said Sheldon Souray.

"There was nothing to cheer about last game. We were embarrassed."

And were still embarrassed yesterday. And are today. And will be tomorrow. They'll stay embarrassed until they do something to prove that an eight-goal defeat on home ice was nothing more than an unfortunate blip on what's been a pretty decent radar screen lately.

"That 10-2 game is over our heads right now like a cartoon anvil," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "We can diminish that with a good performance on Friday. If we come out and duplicate that (Buffalo) performance, it's going to be a huge issue."

Very huge. Nobody needs to be told how bad things are going to get if the Oilers look half as bad tomorrow against the Wild.

"It's not my first day on the job," said MacTavish. "I know the implications of being a coach of a team that gets drubbed 10-2. The players know the implications."

Look bad in losing the next few, entirely possible given that the next two visitors are Minnesota and Nashville (a combined 21-6 against Edmonton since the start of the 2006-07 season) and it's going to get ugly.

Simply put, this could be a life-altering weekend.

"That's the mark of a good team, the mark of a good athlete, the way you respond to adversity," said Moreau, adding the sooner they forget about Black Tuesday the better.

"It shows how mentally strong you are as a team and individuals if you can come out after a 10-2 loss and play well the next game, that will show a lot about our team."

The good part, or very bad part, depending on how you look at it, is that Edmonton actually has experience in dealing with pies in the face. They got spanked 9-2 by Chicago last month and came right back the next game and ... well, they lost 4-2. And then they lost the next one after that, too. But then they won three in a row and 10 of their next 15.

You have to figure this time, given all that they learned from the Chicago beat-down, it'll only take half as long to lift their chins off the pavement.

"You have to be strong enough as a person, strong enough mentally," said Steve Staios. "You have to be able to frame it the right way or else it'll be a real detriment."

By frame it, he means forget it.

"I don't want to talk about it anymore, nobody in here does," he said. "We took some good steps forward before the break and played some better hockey. We'll put last game behind us and won't think about it again."

They won't have to, as long as they beat Minnesota.


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