39% no solution for Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:43 PM ET

Thirty-nine percent.

The BC Sales tax? Lindsay Lohans toxicity level? Chance that the tweeters will check their facts instead of racing to be first the next time an NHL legend dies?

No, thats how the Edmonton Oilers fared in the faceoff circle Thursday night against Tampa Bay. Thirty-nine percent? It was enough to make Adam Oates roll over in his grave (lets see how long it takes that one to go viral).

Needless to say, Shawn Horcoff didnt play against the Bolts, and just as needless to say, the rest of the centres need to up their averages in a hurry.

Horc is our go-to guy, but we need everybody else to chip in, too, said Andrew Cogliano, who dedicated a lot of his summer to improving on the draw. I think (Colin) Fraser will definitely help us and then it comes down to me and Gags (Sam Gagner).

Gags is pretty good, And a guy like myself, I need to be able to hold my own and get a percentage during the year close to 50.

Cogliano was a little short of that in his pre-season opener. Like, 50 per cent short. Despite a 5-2 win and a one-goal effort, his goose egg on the faceoff dot (0-for-9) left him steaming.

I thought I played a good game, but I was so mad afterward with how my faceoffs went because of how much work Id put in over the summer, he said. But its a learning process. This was the first game where I really used my new techniques and tried the new stuff. Some worked and some didnt.

I think I was trying too hard at some points, trying to get it so hard that I was swiping and missing. I think it just needs a couple of games to see what works and what doesnt. For the most part I think Im going to be much better.

Sam Gagner took a Horc-like total of 15 draws on Thursday and came out of it at 47% (7-8)

I felt comfortable at it, said Gagner. I was always a good face-off guy in junior, so its just a matter of adapting to it. Ive improved every year so hopefully this year I can take another step.

Its hard to work on technique in the off-season, I was just trying to work on strength as much as possible and I feel like Ive gotten a lot stronger. Its obviously going to help.

Both players want to play important roles in the upcoming season and are well aware that faceoffs are a huge mitigating factor in determining ice time. Bad face-off guys cant take defensive zone draws, which makes it harder to make them part of the penalty kill, and you dont really want them taking that offensive zone face-off with your goalie pulled in the last minute.

And they cant keep riding Horcoff like they have.

If youre a guy who can be counted on to win big draws and play solid defensively youre going to get more ice time, said Gagner. If you can start every play with the puck its that much more of a help. Guys are pretty focused on it this year.

Cogliano certainly is.

Ive taken steps, he said, adding hell be watching a lot of tape on the subject. I watched Thursday to see how it went and Im going to watch Horcs game in Vancouver, because he was really good (57 per cent).

You dont want to be taken out of those draws. Not only for myself and my ice time, but for the guys Im playing with.

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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