SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers finally looking forward to home ice

Edmonton Oilers' Jeff Deslauriers makes a stick save against the Phoenix Coyotes. (REUTERS/Rick...

Edmonton Oilers' Jeff Deslauriers makes a stick save against the Phoenix Coyotes. (REUTERS/Rick Scuteri)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:31 PM ET

Home ice hasn’t been much of an advantage for the Edmonton Oilers this season.

In fact, heading into their final game at Rexall Place this year, Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche, the Oilers have the worst home record in the Western Conference.

However, they’ve become stingier on home-ice of late, and go into the game having won eight of their last 11 games in front of the local crowd.

“I wish I knew what the explanation was, then maybe we could try to change things on the road,” said Oilers centre Ryan Potulny. “I think maybe it’s a comfort level when we’re playing at home with the fans behind us, and we’re playing with a little bit more energy.”

It’s been a tale of two different teams heading down the stretch.

At home, the Oilers have at times looked impressive, leaving opponents wondering how it’s possible this team is dead last in the league standings and favoured to claim the first overall pick this summer.

During their recent run, the Oilers have beaten the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

“I think it’s probably circumstance, but we have made a conscious effort to try and play well at home,” said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. “We realize it’s been a tough year, but we’ve still sold out every game. We talked about it in the room, we want to play well, especially in the last couple of months.”

One of the reasons for the Oilers resurgence on home ice has been the play of their veterans.

Moreau had arguably his best game of the season in Monday’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, scoring a pair of goals and getting a handful of quality opportunities to register his second-career hat trick.

His unit, along with Shawn Horcoff and Fernando Pisani have been giving the task of shutting down the opposition’s top line, something they’ve been able to well lately.

“There is no reason why it shouldn’t be a successful line,” Moreau said.

“Horc is playing the best he’s played all year, he’s making a lot of plays, Pisani is always solid, you always know what you’re going to get with him. It’s fun to play with those guys and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be successful.”

In their previous wins at home, success wasn’t necessarily measured by what the unit did on the scoreboard, but instead what their opponents failed to do.

Against Minnesota, however, Moreau scored a short-handed goal to go with his third-period marker and Horcoff picked up a pair of assists.

“There are nights when you are feeling really good and you’re skating really well, you just don’t get the puck in right positions to score,” Moreau said.

"On Monday, Horc made some great plays an got me the puck in some scoring areas and was able to score a couple of goals.”

Unfortunately for the Oilers it’s a case of too little too late. Following their game Wednesday, they’ll head back out on the road to finish off the season in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

“Maybe it’s a case of playing well once the horse is out of the barn,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “We have had some moments here, it just hasn’t been enough. Sometimes you can see how well we play here as a team, but we haven’t been able to sustain it, we’ve had poor answers to a little bit of adversity. We have to be tougher, not just physically tougher, but mentally tougher to those situations that occur with every team.

“We have certainly had some good moments in the last little while. We have the capability of entertaining here. We do have some guys that when their game is right that are fun to watch.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos