No relief at home for Oil

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:22 AM ET

Don’t expect the change of venue to result in a reversal of fortune when the Edmonton Oilers return to Rexall Place tonight.

Home has been no kinder than the road.

The Oilers, 3-10-2 in their last 15 games, can’t seem to get find their stride anywhere.

Just back from a humbling 1-4 road trip, that came on the heels of a deflating 1-4 homestand, they’ll try once again to defend a building where they’ve won just seven times in 21 games.

Normally the first game back after a lengthy trip is cause for concern, but location and jet leg seem to be the least of Edmonton’s worries right now.

After the latest in a long line of losses that featured plenty of bright spots to go with the usual bad ending, head coach Tom Renney said all they can do is keep on grinding.

“We’re close but no cigar,” said Renney. “We have to continue to learn that it’s 60 minutes and there is all kinds of ebb and flow to a hockey game. You have to deal with the momentum swings in a mature fashion.

“The bottom line is when we stop beating ourselves we’re going to win hockey games, You have to stop losing before you start winning.”

Whether it’s slow starts, second period lapses or third period fold jobs, the Oilers always seem 20 minutes away from their target.

“We’re trying to do the best we can,” said Renney, whose Oilers will host a Minnesota Wild team that’s as banged up as they are. “There is another team out there that for the most part on any given night has more experience than we do. We’re going to still come and play hard. If we have to battle our way back into games we’ll just keep doing it until we learn the value of the type of start you have to have in the NHL.”

One thing is for certain, seven wins in 21 games at home is embarrassing, no matter how young or injured a team is. So is 3-10-2.

“We have to win,” said Magnus Paajarvi. “It’s not acceptable. We have to win.”

LATE HITS: The Shawn Horcoff Haters might not want to admit it, but the Oilers are a much better team with their captain in the mix. The Oilers are a .500 team (10-10-4) when Horcoff plays and are 4-13-3 without him.

The Oilers were 4-6-2 out of the gate when he missed three in a row in mid-November - the Oilers lost all three in Carolina, Detroit and New Jersey. Horcoff came back and the Oilers went 6-4-2 in their next 12.

Since the knee injury on Dec. 7 they’re 4-11-2.

There are other factors involved (the Oilers haven’t scored a power play goal since Ryan Whitney’s ankle injury nine games ago), but there’s no ignoring the importance of Horcoff’s overall game.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA

Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI


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