Oilers exorcising demons

The Oilers play their first game tonight since losing 10-2 at home to the Sabres on Tuesday. (Sun...

The Oilers play their first game tonight since losing 10-2 at home to the Sabres on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Jason Franson)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:32 PM ET

When a horse bucks you off, you're supposed to get right back in the saddle.

But how do you climb back on when the horse bucks you off, kicks you in the groin, tramples you a few times and leaves a steaming souvenir next to your dishevelled body?

We'll find out at roughly 7:07 p.m. tonight when the Edmonton Oilers return to the scene of the most humiliating home-ice defeat in franchise history.

"The most important thing is the leadership core in the group comes to the rink with the right attitude and the team is ready to go," said winger Erik Cole, adding they can't allow the Ghosts of Debacles Past into the dressing room.

"We have to make sure that everyone is motivating not only themselves, but motivating each other. It's up to the leadership to step out on the ice and set the example and set the tone."

NOT EXACTLY EASY

This won't be an easy one to play. You've got a team that has to be wrestling with confidence issues, a crowd that'll probably have the patience of a two-year-old and a divisional rival that's hard to look good against and always beats Edmonton.

What could go wrong?

"It's important that when you get beat as handily as we did last game," said Craig MacTavish, "that the urgency of your game reflects the urgency of the situation."

And how urgent is it?

"The quick answer," said the coach, still managing to keep his sense of humour, "is we're one loss away from them needing another team meeting."

Asked if the boys were nervous heading into tonight's game, Shawn Horcoff looked at the reporter like he was asking algebra questions in Japanese.

"What? No. You're more excited really, you want to come back and play, you want another kick at the can to show everyone that that's not the way we envision ourselves as a team. We're more excited than anything."

To hear all of them tell it, and whether you want to believe it or not is another issue altogether, the 10-2 loss will have virtually no residual effect on what happens tonight.

"With this team this year we've been pretty good at having a short memory," said Horcoff. "There have been instances where we haven't played good hockey, but we've been able to bounce back.

"You do it in the playoffs at the most important time of the year after a loss, you forget about it, you put it behind you, you move on and you get ready for the next night.

"It would be a bigger issue if it was four or five games in a row. If we were really stinking it out before the break and came back and boom, you get this..."

If 10-2 had come after four or five losses in a row, fans would be burning sticks in the streets. That it happened after Edmonton won five of its previous six, and 10 of its previous 15, lets them frame it in a less dramatic, less devastating manner. For now.

SUSPENDED SENTENCE

What Black Tuesday amounts to is a suspended sentence. Win this one and the Oilers are 6-2 in their last eight and 11-6 in their last 17. Not bad.

"We played pretty good before the last game," said Ales Hemsky. "We just have to get back in the same shape we were before. If you win the next one, everybody forgets."

If they lose it, then 10-2 will still be hanging over their heads, as MacTavish put it so colourfully Wednesday, "like a cartoon anvil."

Cole says it's best not to sit around trying to figure out the ramifications of a win or a loss.

"You need to stay in the present, especially when the season is this long and there are so many ups and downs," he said. "You need to stay in the now and prepare yourself accordingly."


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