SUN Hockey Pool

Script needs work

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

They erupt for five goals against Tampa, snapping a three-game losing streak, and 48 hours later it's, "Relax, boys, let's save something for the playoffs," and they get humiliated at home by Columbus.

Shut out. Out-shot 17-5 in the second period. And as you looked down at that flea-bitten dog Thursday night you couldn't help wondering if some of those players even care.

POISON PENNER

Dustin Penner, the NHLposter boy for comfort zones and inconsistency, refused to comment on the state of the team yesterday.

"There's other guys in there to talk to," he sniffed as he walked out of the dressing room at Millenium Place.

Leaving the unpleasant work for somebody else? Why should his interviews be any different than so many of his games?

"It's up to us to find a way," Erik Cole said. "You have to will the puck into the net, we don't get enough of that. I said it after the second period Thursday night, 'These are the games we've struggled with all year long, we have to find a way.' The games that are hanging in the balance, where if we can just find a way it's there for the taking; for whatever reason that's been our nemesis this year."

Much of this is Kevin Lowe's fault for stocking the roster with small forwards who don't score and big forwards who play small and don't score. But, on both counts, the players should be doing a heck of a lot more to justify their slice of that $53-million payroll.

"We were unable to compete in the one-on-one battles," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "(Columbus) played an exceptionally strong game and we didn't have the answers for them."

If the script continues as it has, the red-faced Oilers will come out roaring against Minnesota, then rest on that two-point laurel for Tuesday's optional against Nashville. Get used to it, it's the life-cycle of an average team that doesn't have as much character as it likes to think.

"I think when you're 61 games into the season, you are where you are for a reason," said MacTavish. "We haven't been collectively good enough to sustain anything. We're not terrible, but at times we get exposed, whether it's through a good puck-moving team and we get spanked or a team that plays a structured physical game like Columbus did."

The only saving grace is that they do play well when they're embarrassed, which is quite frequently.

"There are times you get beat handily and you think the team is not going to respond, and we have to this point, that's why we're still in the race," said MacTavish, pointing out that most of the Western Conference is in the same leaky boat.

ALL-CONSUMING

"You can get so consumed after a game like that with your own shortcomings that you forget that there are six or eight teams in a similar situation and six or seven teams in a worse situation.

"You have to take some solace in that, get up and dust yourselves off, which we've done many times before, and try and win a hockey game."

HE SAID IT: "WE NEED OFFENCE OUT OF OUR FORWARDS. SIMPLE AS THAT. THEY HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO BE PRODUCTIVE OFFENSIVELY." - MACTAVISH.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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