Renney pushes Oilers' reset button

After a brutal 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Oilers coach Tom Renney gave his team a rest...

After a brutal 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Oilers coach Tom Renney gave his team a rest from regular practice Wednesday. (TOM BRAID/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:17 PM ET

Just like some Oilers games this season, Wednesday’s practice was over before it started.

They hit the ice, less than 12 hours after a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and were called back in the dressing room before the flood even dried.

Twelve minutes, by most estimates, from start to finish.

At first glance it looked like a psychological maneuver straight from the pages of Shrink Rap Weekly.

Nope. Turns out Renney wasn’t playing with their heads, just resting their minds and bodies.

“We have to leave some gas in the tank for Thursday night,” he told a disappointed group of reporters who were hoping for the cerebral warfare angle. “We played 20 in 40 or something like that, and we do a lot of dryland (training) just about every day, so it’s not like we’re not working on fitness. This is sort of a mental health day.

“Fatigue can be an enemy if you’re not careful and I’m not so sure it’s physical fatigue as much as it might be mental.”

The Oilers looked like something wasn’t quite right mentally in the last couple of games, 2-1 and 4-1 home-ice losses to Vancouver and Toronto. The jump and energy that showed in putting together a 7-2-2 run just wasn’t there.

So instead of a bag skate, the favoured tool of some coaches when the ship is turning south, he scheduled a light twirl.

“It’s been a long stretch here, we’ve tried to scratch and claw our way back into the race,” said Renney. “We still will, but it looks like it might have taken its toll,”

But he made it clear to the team there’s a difference between rest and sympathy.

“I think he realized that we been a little tired,” said alternate captain Ryan Whitney. “But he had a right be a little angry after last game. In the room he made it pretty clear that’s not acceptable. It’s on us, the older guys here, to be professional and start winning games.”

“Tom does everything for a reason,” added Taylor Hall. “He didn’t think we needed a bag skate or battle drills. It’s nice to just get out there and get the legs moving.”

In the hopes that they’ll get their backsides moving Thursday against Columbus.

“You don’t want it to snowball, you have to nip it in the bud and correct all the things you’re not doing right,” said Hall, the best Oiler by a stretch in the last few games. “There are some things that we are doing right. It’s only two games, we’re not that far removed from playing some really good hockey.”

Their problem is scoring. Two goals in two home games is going to equal two losses 99% of the time.

“We can’t let this keep going, we have to stop this,” said Jordan Eberle, the only Oiler to score a goal in the last 148 minutes and 30 seconds. “We had a lot of good chances, a couple of breakaways. Part of offence is being around the net for second opportunities. You have to be around the net to put it in. That’s something we have to look into.”

Eberle had both feet in the blue paint for his goal against Toronto and scored seconds before a net-crashing Hall knocked the goal off its mooring against Vancouver. The closer you are to the mesh, the better the odds of banging one in.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for our guys to access the net, size and strength possibly being an issue,” said Renney. “We need to direct more pucks at the net and we need the courage and the battle level to follow that up.”

Follow me at Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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