Oilers' overall play regressing

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Maybe it wasn't all Craig MacTavish's fault after all.

A quarter of the way through the season, the Edmonton Oilers are starting to fall into some eerily similar patterns that plagued them last year.

And the new coaching staff is starting to show similar signs of frustration of the previous administration.

"The mood is pretty sombre which is not a surprise to any of us naturally," said Oilers associate coach Tom Renney. "What we have to do is reflect real quickly on what happened (Saturday) and move on to the next game.

BUILDING BLOCKS

"Every season you build. You build it a game at a time, you build your games a period at a time and sometimes they're pretty good and other times not so good. But what you have to do is gain by it, by the experience and we have to make sure we do that in preparation for Phoenix."

Heading into tonight's encounter against the Coyotes, the Oilers have dropped 11 of their last 14 games.

Following their 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, head coach Pat Quinn had some less than complimentary things to say about his club.

"You don't have to be a giant to play hard in this game and we had some guys that didn't work very hard. It's evident, they can all see it," Quinn said in his post-game press conference.

QUINN STEAMED

"If we learned from that and say 'I'm going to make some changes,' then we have a chance. But we abandoned the game plan, we lay a game plan out and we go where they want. 'Breakouts?' We're too skilled to worry about getting in the right spots, 'I'll just take the puck around myself, and oops, by the way I turned it over.' It was an awful easy game for them (Blackhawks) to play tonight."

The frustration in the new coaching staff is that the team continues to make the same mistakes on a nightly basis.

Quinn complained his club was allowing too many goals from in tight, leaving opponents all sorts of time to make a play with the puck.

On Jonathan Toews' opening goal of the game, he was left all alone in front.

Kris Versteeg didn't have a defenceman near him as he banged away at the puck, which was eventually knocked in by defenceman Sheldon Souray.

John Madden had an easy tap-in from the side of the net.

It's as though the message isn't getting through.

"It appears that way," Renney said. "Some teams bring out the best in you and some teams bring out the worst in you. Chicago exposed us and you have to give credit to your opponent first and foremost. But we have to learn by that and continue to forge ahead and place a premium on certain parts of our game that might mean a sacrifice in other areas. That's what this team has to do, is make those sacrifices to get the other side of the job done."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA

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WHO TO WATCH

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THESE TWO PLAYERS IN TONIGHT'S GAME

DUSTIN PENNER

Scored his 13th goal of the season in a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Despite the team's struggles, Penner continues to play well. He currently leads the Oilers in scoring with 25 points, four more than Ales Hemsky.

ILYA BRYZGALOV

Coyotes goaltender is having a strong season backstopping the club. Heading into tonight's contest Bryzgalov is sporting a 12-6 record with a 2.04 goals against average -- third best in the league -- and .922 save percentage.


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