SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers sweat, reflect on situation

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Operation Resurrection was brilliant in its simplicity.

Stage one: Yank the rug out from under the last-place Oilers golf trip to Palm Springs, sparing them all those long, sleepless nights spent wrestling with their guilty consciences in California.

Done.

All that's left on that front is for Daryl Katz to try to get some of his deposit money back (Note to owner: Don't send any players down to argue about the bill).

Stage two: Hold a gruelling mini-camp, complete with lengthy film sessions, off-ice workouts and two-a-day practices -- just like a real training camp, only without the optimism.

Done.

And now, all that's left is for the Oilers to unleash their new-found knowledge and fury on the poor, unsuspecting Nashville Predators.

The devastating third and final stage begins tonight at 7.

"They worked hard; I haven't had much to gripe about in that area because they do practise, they're trying hard to make themselves better," said head coach Pat Quinn, who ordered the reclamation effort after Edmonton's 1-10-1 swoon left him no other choice.

"This was hopefully a project that allowed us to become a good team sooner than later."

Hopefully? You mean you can't teach pigs to fly in 48 hours?

"Four days isn't going to make a major difference, I don't think," said Quinn. "Because we have some room to go as far as becoming a team. But maybe we've made some steps that way."

OK, assuming there's no such thing as an overnight fix, there's a remote possibility the post-camp Oilers will bear some resemblance to the pre-camp Oilers.

Maybe it wasn't a tactical masterpiece, but at least they've had time to formulate a plan.

"We put a lot of work in, we were here for 12 hours over a couple of days," said centre Shawn Horcoff.

"A lot of video work, a lot of time on the ice, a lot of coaching, a lot of teaching, and we're hoping it's going to pay off.

"We understood the situation we're in. We needed to work during our break, and that's what we did.

"I think things are a lot clearer. We went over every possible scenario you can imagine on the ice and in the video room. It never hurts to reinforce those, because it's obvious to people who've watched our games that that's where we needed to improve the most."

And, just as importantly, they were able to briefly escape the depressing cycle of 'loss, morning after a loss, loss, morning after a loss,' that can make recovery so difficult in a compressed Olympic-year schedule.

"The four days probably came at a good time for us," said Horcoff.

"We needed the work, we needed the mental break from the games and the situation we're in."

And hey, they haven't lost in five days, which represents their longest non-losing streak since the first week of December.

Don't take it lightly.

"It's always a challenge for people when they think they try hard and don't get results and things are slipping away, all the hope and good feelings you have at the start of the season are being replaced by frustration and disappointment," said Quinn.

"You have to scrape yourself up and be in the fray.

"There's an increasing level of frustration that gets people to kind of give up on themselves. That's the biggest fight we have, both the coaches and players, to stay on the task."

When the finish line looks a million miles away, focus on the next step.

"They're the ones who want to be good hockey players, they have to challenge themselves daily to push that," said Quinn.

"We still might not get the results we want, but we have to continue to be better, because there's always tomorrow for everybody."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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