EDMONTON — Roller coasters rides are always a lot of fun ... except when they last about seven months.
Then it can get a little nauseating.
Which brings us to the Edmonton Oilers, who are trying desperately to keep from barfing up all the progress they made in the first two weeks of December.
“We came back from the road with five wins in a row and everybody was so excited,“ said defenceman Ladislav Smid. “Then we come home and... (sigh).”
Then they came home and started hurling away their hard-earned momentum. They lost 3-2 to Los Angeles in a game where they out-chanced the visitors 22-11 and 6-3 to Nashville in a game where they led 2-0 after five minutes.
“The first game wasn’t really bad but last game, we all know we didn’t play really good,” said Smid. “We have to bounce back.”
They’ve been bouncing all over the board this year. They go 6-2-1 to start the season, then lose six of their next seven. They go 5-0 on a road trip, then come home and lose two very winnable games.
Truth is they are somewhere between the world beaters who ran the table on the road and the guys Pat Quinn is wearing out his vocal chords lambasting, but the ups and downs and wild mood swings can be exhausting.
“We want to remain positive at all times and have an even keel,” said Sam Gagner. “That’s something you struggle with in the NHL, especially in a Canadian market where your game in scrutinized so much. When you’re playing well everybody talks you up and when you’re not playing well you get bashed for it.
“I think the biggest thing for us is trying to stay level headed and focus on what we need to accomplish for the next game.”
And find some measure of consistency, because a two steps forward, two steps back is not the kind of pace that gets you from 13th place into the playoffs.
“We got up 2-0 on Nashville and I think we thought we were a little too good for what we really are and let down a bit,” said Andrew Cogliano, who knows they can’t be handing out free points anymore. “You win five games and you’re still only in 13th. You think now, if you start losing games and losing games you’re going to be on the bottom again.”
Everyone knew this homestand was going to be tougher than the five game road trip. LA, Nashville and Washington are a big step up from Florida, Tampa and St. Louis.
So the Oilers have to step it up, too.
“We seem to find a way to beat ourselves when we’ve played well,” said Gagner. “LA was a game we probably should have had. We have to find that killer instinct and find a way to push through. Wins don’t come easy in this league.”