SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers an extreme case

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

TORONTO -- The Edmonton Oilers are poor losers.

Not that they're bad sports when they come out on the wrong end of a score, it's just that when they lose a game, they REALLY LOSE a game.

There's very rarely a middle ground with this team - when they're good they're good and when they're bad they're usually brutal.

The litany of losses that make their fans want to gag are plenty - like Thursday's 4-2 loss in Ottawa, getting shut out at home by Columbus or losing 8-3 to Detroit, 10-2 to Buffalo and 9-2 to Chicago.

"It seems like when we lose, we lose 5-1, 5-0 - everything goes wrong," said Ales Hemsky.

"We stop playing. I don't know, it's hard to explain. We get down and we have no answer."

Very rarely have the Oilers been able to reverse the flow of momentum. Even when they have 59 minutes and 48 seconds to do it, like in Ottawa.

"We need to find a way to have a lot more jump than we did last game," said Shawn Horcoff.

"We talked about coming out hard early and letting them know it was going to be a long night."

And the Sens scored 12 seconds in.

"A good team, an experienced team, would be able to bounce back from that and really respond," said Horcoff. "We just weren't able to find that gear."

Losing must-win games to the likes of Ottawa, no matter how you look doing it, is inexcusable, said Ladislav Smid.

"We should be winning games like that - these teams are out of the playoffs. We're in the race for the playoffs."

Not for long if the team keeps going at its current 2-4-2 clip. Craig MacTavish is hoping the urgency of the situation is enough to get the players fired up.

"Out of the games we're going to play, we can't have too many more like that," he said of the Ottawa loss.

"The message for the players (yesterday) is whatever you need to do to get ready to play Saturday, just do it. We need some fire and we need some legs."

Gagner goes to top line

With three goals and two assists in the first two games of the road trip, Sam Gagner is going to the first line with Ales Hemsky and Ales Kotalik.

"I'm starting to feel better," said Gagner, who had three points in his previous 13 games. "I'm starting to think offence and trying to create more, but at the same time I'm playing a little simpler with the puck."

He's liking this chance.

"You always want to be the guys who's out there at the important times in the game," he said.

"It's always exciting to be the go-to guy and get that opportunity offensively to shine. I'm going to try and relish the opportunity and hopefully run with it."

Moreau on the mend

Captain Ethan Moreau, who came close to losing an eye when Antti Miettinen's stick raked across his eye last week, is making good progress.

"He can't have any physical exertion or activity because there is still blood in the eye," said MacTavish. "But hopefully at the beginning of next week he'll be able to ride the bike and get skating.

"It's quite incredible that he's come as far as he has."

What are the odds?

Horcoff spent part of yesterday at Toronto's SkyDome visiting with Boston Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay.

Bay and Horcoff were born just three days apart in the same Trail, B.C., hospital and have been good friends ever since.

"What are the odds that in a town of 9,000 people, two kids born three days apart would go the NHL and Major League Baseball?," said Horcoff.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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