DALLAS - The way they've been mailing in their efforts lately, it remains to be seen if the Edmonton Oilers will even bother showing up at all for Saturday's loss in Phoenix.
As they've done all season, the Oilers showed everyone who's still watching, and it can't be that many at this point, why they are 30th in a 30-team league.
Three days after playing just half a game in Detroit, the slow learners responded by playing a third of a game in Dallas.
"It's just not being ready," said defenceman Ryan Whitney after Edmonton mailed in the first period, fought back from 3-0 down with three unanswered goals in the second, and then gassed it all over again in the third period of a 6-3 loss to the Stars.
"You have to be professional and ready to play and when you have one good period out of three it's embarrassing. Everybody in here should feel embarrassed with that game. We have an awful start against Detroit (falling 3-0 down) and then come out and do the same thing here.
"It's just not learning, and that's why the team's in 30th place."
How can a team look so different from one period to the next? One word: character.
"It's wanting to do it all the time," said Whitney. "If guys want to win races to loose pucks and get pucks in deep we'll be good. When we turn it over and try beating guys one on one, not back checking, not clearing guys out on front of our net, you lose, it's pretty simple.
"It's tough to figure out why we haven't figured it out yet, with five games left."
It's a pretty safe bet that they're not going to, either. You could teach fish to juggle faster than you can teach these guys to bring it every night.
"What is it now, 77 games in," said Dustin Penner. "It's been that way pretty much all year. We haven't played a solid game all year, for the most part, except for the ones we won."
That would be 24 of 77.
"The ones that we've lost we deserved to lose," said Penner. "You can't play half a game in this league and expect to win. There's not much you can say."
Dallas made it 1-0 four minutes in after Charles Linglet turned it over at centre, Tom Gilbert lost a battle behind the net and nobody bothered picking up James Neal in the slot. Other than that, the shift looked pretty good.
Two more like that one and it was 3-0 Stars.
"The goals that we're giving up are really sorry goals," said head coach Pat Quinn, whose club went 0-for-6 on the power play. "It's frustrating that we haven't been able to stem that tide. The front of the net is just easy meat for anybody we play.
"You,d think at this point we could figure out that if a guy is open inside your box somebody should maybe cover him. A lot of times we get in position but we don't do the work. I don't know what that says."
When the clubs came out for the second half, Edmonton looked like all-stars and Dallas looked like all-Oilers. Penner scored on a breakway and set up a gimme for Marc Pouliot and Ethan Moreau, who looked like he might be a healthy scratch, scored on a rebound to tie it up.
But just like in Detroit, when they rallied back from 4-0 to lose 5-4, the comeback was all for nothing.
The Oilers caved in all over again, giving up three straight to get what they deserved.
LATE HITS... Gilbert Brule sprained his right ankle in the first period and is likely done for the season.