SUN Hockey Pool

Get out of town

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers are clearly a hockey team in big, big trouble. And next comes double trouble.

It was Game 16 and the body language of Pat Quinn's team was that of a club mopping up the season with 16 games to go and out of the playoffs.

The Oilers now head into the double trouble part of the schedule which will see them play 11 of the next 16 games on the road as a result of the combination of the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials taking over Rexall Place.

SPREAD THE FLU

Which means they can spread the flu to Colorado, Ottawa, Buffalo, Atlanta, Columbus, Vancouver, Detroit, Dallas, Florida, Tampa Bay and St. Louis while at the same time temporarily curing whatever ails the hockey clubs in those places. The Oilers have only won one on the road so far this year.

"It's not good," said Quinn.

"What's Harry Neale's old line? Can't play at home. Can't play on the road. Need to find a new place to play.'

"We're going to try and get some change. A change in body language, too, if that's what it takes."

After a 6-2-1 start, filled with testimonials to how much different it is with their new coaches and fresh start, the flu and injury-riddled Oilers have gone so stale that Rexall Place will smell better with the rodeo stock in the building next week. With last night's empty effort, a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers, they've now lost six of their last seven, been shut out in three of them, and blew a 5-1 lead and needed to go to a shootout in the one they won.

Remember the pre-season when Quinn's Winston Churchill-like 'We Shall Fight On The Beaches' speech was shown before every game on the video board.

"We will play tough. We will show grit. We will highlight the skill on this team. Even on nights when we're tired and it's cold out, I will promise you that this team will compete."

In arguably one of the most important home games of the season because of where it was located on the schedule, this hockey team didn't come to compete.

They didn't win many of the little battles or the little races to the puck, didn't play tough, with any grit at all and their skill seldom showed against a team which came town playing just as poorly having lost three of their last four.

"We didn't seem to get involved early enough," said Steve Staios, in his first game back from a concussion, standing in the middle of the dressing room serving himself up as player spokesman for the abomination..

"Every time we seemed to get any momentum we ended up taking a penalty. The mistakes we made were made because we were playing tentative, back on our heels. We didn't force the play."

For significant stretches of the first 16 games of schedule Quinn has told these guys about everything that's wrong with them. It was like the Rangers were paying more attention to him than the Oilers. The Rangers jumped all over and exposed all the flaws Quinn has been talking about.

Quinn didn't agree with the idea that the Oilers had the bad body language at the very beginning. He thought that came after their first silent movie fire drill which turned into a 1-0 Rangers lead.

'DIDN'T COME TO PLAY'

"Early in the game it looked like they didn't come to play," he said of the Rangers. "After that first goal I thought the flow started going the other way and we stopped playing. We started taking penalties in the offensive zone. That shows you're not going to skate or play involved.

"They want it to be easy. If you want to compete for the puck, you can't do it easy.

"These guys are squeezing it right now," said Quinn of their hockey sticks, with his own body language which suggests there are a few Robert Nilsson (whom he benched) types he'd very much like to squeeze the necks of right now.

"We have a lot of our competitive guys that are out of the lineup. Mike Comrie, who is a small guy, probably threw the most checks of anyone on our team and what does that say?" he said of the player who missed five out of his last six games.

Says they're a team in big, big trouble with double the trouble ahead.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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