SUN Hockey Pool

Cellar twins won't mail it in

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

If misery really does love company, it was a big group hug Monday night in Columbus.

It was the Blew Jackets versus the Copper and Blew, two clubs that envisioned big things this season, sitting 14th and 15th in the Western Conference and meeting in what amounted to little more than a support group for teams playing out the string.

"It's been tough," said Jackets defencemen Mike Commodore, who knows exactly how the woeful Oilers are feeling.

"This is kind of new for me, being out of it with 15 games left, and it's not a lot of fun. It's one thing if you're out with two games left, because right up to the final week you're still in it and every game matters -- it's 'We've got to win, we've got to win,' -- it's kind of like the playoffs.

"This is new, and it's tough. It sucks going through this for everybody."

Especially given the pre-season expectations. Columbus made the playoffs last season and were fully expecting to take another giant step this year.

They did, but in the wrong direction.

"There were a lot of expectations for our team," said former Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon, who's at the other end of the spectrum after winning a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh last year.

"We started well, but after that, November and December were really hard. We struggled a lot, we couldn't win games. It's hard in this league when you go on a bad stretch."

Now, even though the games don't matter anymore, how they play them does. Like Edmonton, the Jackets are trying to kick the losing habit before the season ends.

"The bottom line is too many guys really haven't had very good years," said Commodore. "We just need to focus on getting better, and I'm sure it's the same thing for the Oilers. You want to go out there and play the right way, not mail things in, even though the game, to be brutally honest with you, is not really worth much."

Edmonton's light at the end of the tunnel is that in four or five years all these young players they've been drafting might be good enough to get this team to the next level. In Columbus, they had three lottery picks from 2000 to 2005 and picked sixth and seventh in 2006 and 2007, so they're long past the point of waiting for kids to save them.

"The draft pick stuff hasn't come up much, to tell you the truth," said Commodore. "Most of us realize there are a lot of us tied in here for a few years and a lot of us are going to be back. It's up to the guys in here. If nothing else this is a learning experience. We'll know next year that if we run into some struggles we'll have to pick it up fast because we don't want to go through this again."


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