SUN Hockey Pool

Iceberg of futility for Oilers

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

It's like watching them bailing water out of the Titanic with a sand pail.

No matter how hard the Edmonton Oilers try, there's no way their ship isn't sinking.

Saturday's 4-1 loss in San Jose was Edmonton's ninth in their last 10 games, dropping them 15 points out of a playoff spot while keeping them firmly entrenched as the Western Conference cellar dwellers.

The hole is so deep, the Oilers don't know whether to laugh or cry. All they can do is keep plugging away, hoping that somehow, some way, the ship rights itself.

"It's frustrating, obviously," said centre Shawn Horcoff. "But what are you going to do? You'd drive yourself to insanity if you can't find ways to be positive.

"I think one thing fans have to realize is that this is our livelihood. I think a lot of people think that once the game is over we just leave it behind us and go.

"We try to do that, believe me, but it's hard. Mentally right now, it's real work to try to keep everyone positive, keep everyone on the same page and keep everyone going."

Just three weeks ago, the Oilers were feeling good about themselves after winning five consecutive road games that lifted them back within sight of the playoff contenders.

BACK TO REALITY

However, a seven-game losing skid -- including four straight losses at home --brought them back to reality.

Now they're risking the distinction of being one of the worst teams in Oilers history.

That honour belongs to the 1992-93 edition that collected just 60 points through an 84-game schedule.

This year, the Oilers have 36 points through 42 games. Only the Carolina Hurricanes have a worse record.

Tomorrow night the Oilers host the Phoenix Coyotes in the first of a four-game home-stand that will also see the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins invade Rexall Place.

"It's tough, because although we always haven't made the playoffs (in recent years), we've always been right there," Horcoff said.

"We've always had chances to make it going into the last few games in the season.

"The situation we're in now, we're going to have to put together an impressive run to turn things around."

UNLIKELY TO HAPPEN

That's unlikely to happen -- at least not with this group of players.

With the exception of winger Dustin Penner, everyone is seemingly suffering the worst season of his career.

Even Penner has cooled off, having scored just one goal in his last 10 games.

"I think he's really trying hard to be the guy that carries our group," head coach Pat Quinn said of the team's leading scorer.

"He's taken on a big mantle of leadership in a lot of ways. And in some cases to the detriment, right now, he's in that stage where he wants to be a key guy.

"He is a key guy, but sometimes key guys want to hold the puck when they shouldn't be doing that.

"We need to get Sam (Gagner) going, too. He's dried up during this stretch. The whole unit has been non-productive offensively, even though they've been our best-chance line.

"We're not putting the puck in the net well and we can always say we ran into a hot goaltender, but we can only use that for a while.

"Eventually, we have to put the puck in the net."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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