SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers are finding ways to win

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:17 PM ET

How many times in the past few years have the Edmonton Oilers walked off the ice after a defeat thinking they deserved better?

With 190 losses in the previous four seasons, the answers is lots.

And how many times this year have they walked off the ice after a win thinking they deserved worse?

Lots.

No surprise, really, when they rank 29th in goals against, 29th in faceoff percentage, 29th in shots against and 30th on the penalty kill.

Throw in widespread inexperience, a work-in-progress defence, injuries to Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff and this team's had plenty of reasons to lose. Just like last year and the year before.

But unlike the folding tents of recent Oilers history, this year's team is finding ways to win.

"I don't want to hang too much in this environment, I just think it's our culture," said head coach Tom Renney, a day after his club was outshot 17-1 in the third period of a 4-3 shootout victory over Tampa Bay. "We're finding ways. We believe in each other, staff and players, that we can achieve things. It's not always pretty and it's not always immediate but we believe we can do the right thing. And while we figure that out, getting goaltending like Khabby (Nikolai Khabibulin) gives you buys you some time.

"It's a pretty positive group."

Finding a way to win is what good teams do and though it's premature to label any 14th place team as 'good,' they seem headed in that direction at 7-2-2 in their last 11.

"Wins are the same as goals, they don't go up as 'Pretty' or 'Ugly,' they just go up," said winger Ryan Jones. "The main thing is finding ways to win, that's what good teams do. Sometimes on off nights there are guys who step up. Khabby was one of them, and we had some guys step up and score some big goals. That's exactly what we need."

Of course, winning when you maybe should have lost isn't something any club wants to make a habit of.

"It's definitely a different attitude in here," said Sam Gagner. "But the thing we have to be wary of is we can't be satisfied with the way we played (Friday) night. We can't sit back and think it's going to happen every night.

"Tampa outplayed us for large periods of that game and Khabby was great for us, especially in the third. They took it to us the whole period. We're pretty fortunate to come out with a win and we're happy about that, we want that to be a positive but we have to be better."

They are certainly much more resilient than any recent Oilers teams. It used to be that when the slightest bit of water came over the bow, they abandoned ship. This year they've bailing themselves out once a week.

"It's a good attitude to have, to think that we can always come back in games, that we always have a chance in games, and if things happen negatively we can bounce back from them," said Gagner. "But at the same time that doesn't mean we can sit back and just watch negative things happen to us. We have to continue to push forward and improve."

They'll have to against Vancouver, their first divisional opponent in seven games. Though the Canucks will be playing their second game in as many days, they still represent a stern, physical test.

"They've been the team that everybody talks about going deep in the playoffs," said Jones. "It's going to be a good measuring stick for us."

"Everyone who's played against Vancouver here in the past knows what the rivalry is like, it's an easy game to get up for," added Gagner. "They're a team that you have to beat if you want to consider yourself a good team. Everyone here is pretty ready for the challenge."

Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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