SUN Hockey Pool

There's depleted, then there's the Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Cause of death matters very little to a stiff.

Murder, suicide, accident, what difference does it make when you’re already in the box?

So while the illness and injury pandemic that swept through the Oilers dressing room is at least partly to blame for their fast-fading pulse, there’s no point using crutches as a crutch.

Because another three weeks like the last three weeks and it won’t much matter what the CSI crew discovers.

Dead is dead.

“It’s big, there’s no question,” head coach Pat Quinn said of a crucial five-game home stand that begins Wedneday when the slumping and tired Oilers face off against the slumping and tired Colorado Avalanche. “We’re behind schedule as far as where we wanted to be.”

Unless they wanted to be in 12th place and 2-8-2 in their last dozen games. After a 6-2-1 start, nobody ever dreamed it could get this bad this fast. But it has.

They can blame swine flu, concussions, knee injuries and colitis all they want, and some of it is even justified, but this doesn’t begin and end at the training room door.

“There is realism here, it’s a fact we’ve had guys hurt and some of them have been our cornerstone guys,” said Quinn. “We’ve had eight or nine guys out of our roster from time to time, but we still have to play those games.

“And we beat ourselves in a lot of these games in the last two weeks. We’ve been gift givers in a sense. They do a lot of good stuff and then give (the other team) something that’s inexplicable sometimes.”

He’s right. The Oilers have been in almost every game, right up until they found a way to lose.

“Four one-goal games,” Quinn said of 1-2-2 trip that included 3-2, 3-2, 4-3 and 3-1 (empty netter) losses. “But we’re on the negative end of them and it’s not acceptable at this point.”

If you’ve got the horses to be tied 2-2 in the third period, you’ve got the horses to win. You can’t play well enough to give yourself a chance, and then play the injury card when you blow it.

“Those of you who watched the game Monday night saw behind the back passes in the third period of a 2-2 game,” said the coach, who can’t understand why a team that’s given up the fourth-most goals in the West would try to be cute.

“What in the world are we thinking here? You don’t win that way. We’re still doing stuff that doesn’t win and can certainly beat you going the other way.”

There’s no blaming high-risk plays at the opposition blue line on injuries, since brain cramps don’t count.

Centre Shawn Horcoff knows that misfortune has taken its toll, but agrees that the Oilers should still be better than this.

“It’s frustrating more than anything,” he said. “In a lot of those games we had leads and weren’t able to sustain them, or even get points in some of them. The energy was better, but we need the results.”

Now. Three points and four teams out of eighth is a manageable deficit, but it won’t be for long if they don’t start winning. With a six-game road trip on the near horizon, they desperately need to make up some ground on this home stand. It won’t be easy, given that three of the visitors are Chicago, San Jose and Los Angeles (combined records 39-16-8), but when you’re a 12th place team, almost everyone is a step up.

“There’s no better time to be at home than right now,” said Horcoff. “We’ve had success here this year. The fans have done a good job of bringing energy to the building and giving us a lift and we need that right now. With our record and the time of the year we need to make a little bit of a run.”


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