Oiler shooters can't find target

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Goal starved?

It's a wonder UNICEF isn't holding a telethon for these guys.

" ... For just 10 cents a day, you can make a difference by sponsoring an Oilers goal scorer so that he might have the same kind of basic hands that players all over the league take for granted."

We're not saying the Oilers are starved for offence, but rumour has it they've asked Mary-Kate Olsen to guest star on their power play.

In a stunning reversal of fortune, a team that scored in its sleep through the first nine games of this season is now putting up more zeroes than a Daryl Katz pay stub.

"Getting shut out three of four games is tough, that should never happen," said centre Gilbert Brule, who's trying, like every coach and player in that stone cold dressing room, to understand 2-0, 3-0 and 2-0 losses to Vancouver, Colorado and Boston in a span of seven days.

"You don't want to go through that, ever."

No, you don't. And they're not out of it, either, as tonight they take on a New York Islanders team that just pitched a shutout in its last game.

"We had a few chances last game that we wish we had back," said Sam Gagner, five games removed from his last goal.

"But the biggest thing is not getting negative because that will only add to the problem."

"You'll get the yips and that's something we can't have.

'ALWAYS SHOOTING'

"If we focus on not scoring, it's never going to happen for us. If you look at the guys who are perennial goal scorers, they're always shooting the puck and they know they're going to score.

"That's how we have to think, then go out and do it."

Shooting the puck would be a pretty good place to start.

When you're only getting 19 shots a night, like the Oilers did in Boston, it probably shouldn't hit you like a bolt of lightning that goals are hard to come by.

"We're passing up a lot of shooting opportunities," said Brule.

"We're a little passive, we have to shoot everything. Even if it's not going to be a goal, you just have to throw it at the net so there's some rebounds and opportunities for guys going to the net."

As long as there's, you know, guys going to the net, which is another point head coach Pat Quinn and the coaching staff have been wearing out felt pens trying to get across.

OPPORTUNITY

"When you're an offensive player you think about where can you go to get that offensive opportunity," said Quinn.

"Unfortunately it's never where the battle is -- it's always on the outside waiting for someone to win it for you and get it to you in a nice spot.

"We've got to convince our forwards they need to be much better at playing this game without the puck than they have been."

The message has to be sinking in by now, after three shutout losses in four games. Doesn't it?

"You like to think that it's just common sense," said Quinn.

"But I've been drawing on the board or showing film for a lot of years and it doesn't always register. Or, if it registers, it's not always that easy to change.

"First of all, it's necessary that you understand what the job is, and secondly, are you willing to do it?

"We're still in that phase where I'm not sure if we understand it."

The players are not simpletons, though, and after the last seven days they're starting to get a feeling that something needs to change.

"We have to focus getting pucks to the net and finding new ways to score goals," said Gagner.

"We just have to keep pushing and find them."

ROBERT. TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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