SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers look to bust out of slump

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

If anyone knows how to deal with a prolonged and painful losing streak, it's the Edmonton Oilers.

Granted, that's not necessarily a good thing, being well-versed in failure, but at least it's helping them maintain some sense of sanity in the face of the latest faceplant, a seven-game swoon that could swell to eight this evening when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit.

"You have to be less consumed about the losses and pay more attention to your game and how you play," said captain Ethan Moreau, who was out with a shoulder injury when the Oilers lost 12 in a row down the 2007 stretch. "That's usually how you get out of things like this."

Right now, the Oilers are a team with average skill and below average confidence, which makes it difficult to get any traction.

"When things don't go well for so long it's hard to expect them to go right," said Moreau, who senses that they're close to breaking out of this. "We just need one goal to go in for us, one big blocked shot or save and it goes the other way."

Until then, it remains a dark and gloomy time. Not much fun to come to the rink.

"It's a struggle when you're in this spot," said Dustin Penner. "It's definitely tough, but a lot of guys have dealt with slumps before, whether it's at this level or somewhere else, so you have to draw on those experiences.

"Its easier to focus on how we're playing, it's not like we're being outclassed. We outshot (Calgary) two-to-one most of the game. We're playing well, it just boils down to special teams.

"We're kind of banging our heads against the wall right now, once we break through hopefully we'll get back to a bit of a winning streak."

It would normally be a motivating factor to give head coach Pat Quinn a win against his old team, but when it's going on three weeks since your last triumph, secondary plots don't matter much.

"The situation that we're in right now you can't get more desperate," said Moreau. "There isn't another story line that will make us play harder. But we realize the history he has with that team. We'll all be ready to play."

Quinn would dearly love to whup his former employers, and it has nothing to do with spite. He needs a win, period.

"We're in the process of making this a better team and it's a struggle," he said. "The last seven games, we shouldn't have lost every one, but we did. We didn't play hard enough long enough. We are learning, hopefully, that the space between the ears has got to be better. Not only intellect and intelligence, but all of those intangibles that we attribute to heart."

Quinn has been demanding right from the start, and isn't going to change his tact just because spirits are low. He wants to kill the sickness early, before it seeps into the gene pool and infects the future of the organization.

"We have to make sure that this young group doesn't get into that habit where it's OK not to be better, not to challenge yourself every day or think that you can accomplish more," he said.

"This is when we need our veterans to be solid and disciplined and provide that peer leadership that maybe they didn't have for a while because they came up at a time when it was OK to win, OK to lose.

"You can get into that mentality that this is OK. It's not OK.

"We can't have our young people not learn. We're at a fragile time right now, but we have to continue to make the sorts of demands that are necessary for teams to get better."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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