EDMONTON -- Pat Quinn issued the challenge to the most senior members of his squad.
If the Sedin twins were going to ring up the Edmonton Oilers like the slot machines in Vegas, they'd have to do it against the veterans.
So Wednesday, Ethan Moreau, Shawn Horcoff and Fernando Pisani were pitted up against the Vancouver Canucks dynamic duo. The line is expected to stay intact Friday as the Oilers host the Dallas Stars at Rexall Place.
“I thought I would put the experience together,” Quinn said. “I said at the start of the season, that we don’t have those checking sort of people. We were looking to use Horcoff as a good two-way guy and hopefully get some offence going somewhere else. But our offence has dried up on us.
“I though in the first 10 games of the season we had some good line balance, then we lost it through injuries and sickness and all that, and we’ve never recovered that balance.”
It was a bold move pitting the three veterans against one of the top lines in hockey, which also includes Alexandre Burrows.
Heading into the contest the three were a combined minus-32 on the season.
Pretty good out on the golf course, but eye-poppingly bad on the ice.
Regardless, the trio held up well, keeping the line off the scoresheet in even strength situations. It was on the power play where the Sedins inflicted all their damage, each collecting three points on the night.
“We’ve played a little bit together before, but more so, we’ve all played that type of role before,” Horcoff said. “I thought we did a pretty good job, we probably out-chanced them five-on-five. They didn’t have anything even strength, but hurt us on the power play. At the end of the day we have to take some consolation in getting a point.
“I thought we played better, I thought we competed, the effort was back to where it needs to be, our systems were better and we just fell a little short.”
It’s been a while since Horcoff has been used as purely a checker.
He broke into the league as a third-line centre but has since been used in an offensive role.
This season, he’s struggling to score with just 10 goals and 19 assists through 44 games.
“We’re at the stage now where we had to sacrifice him as an offensive player, although when you play as a checker against a line like that, you’re going to get opportunities to score. It doesn’t mean you’re just throwing that offence away,” Quinn said. “If you’re patient and do your work, offensive players end up gambling when they’re not getting anything. So if you’re patient and work hard, at times the checking line will out-score the big lines and that’s what we were hoping for (Wednesday) night. I thought they did a pretty good job, they had some chances to score.”
Henrik Sedin went into Wednesday’s contest as the leading scorer in the NHL, while Burrows was holding a hot hand with 11 goals in his previous seven games.
Yet five-on-five they didn’t accomplish much against the Oilers veteran checking line.
“They’re good players, I think we tried to clog the neutral zone on them, we tried to force them to the outside,” Horcoff said. “When they were in the offensive zone and we were in there defensively, we didn’t try to run at them, they’re really good at cycling the puck and spinning off guys and finding the opening. I just think you have to play those guys hard, you can’t give them an easy night because they are real good players.”