SUN Hockey Pool

Wildly disappointing for Oilers

Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Penner chases former teammate ETom Gilbert during the third periodTuesday...

Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Penner chases former teammate ETom Gilbert during the third periodTuesday at Rexall Place. (Dan Riedlhuber, Reuters)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. — By now, it’s well beyond just frustration for Tom Gilbert.

The Edmonton Oilers futility at the Xcel Energy Center has gotten to the point, where heading into their final road game against the Minnesota Wild this season, the club is not sure whether to laugh or cry.

For Gilbert, a Minnesota native, it’s getting tough to come home.

“There is no better time to win there than now, I guess,” said Gilbert. “They’ve been struggling and are not playing very well lately. But I don’t know what it is. It’s a tough building to play in.”

The Oilers head into Thursday’s contest having lost 15 consecutive games to the Wild in Minnesota. It’s the longest losing skid of its kind in the NHL, which dates back to Jan. 16, 2007.

“Hopefully there are lot of guys here that don’t know about that, so maybe if you guys could tone that down a little bit and not let them know, it might help out,” smiled Gilbert.

“I think we just have to keep playing hard. I think if we keep working hard, and we keep doing the things that we’ve done well through our system play, and keep doing the things coaches are telling us then hopefully things will work out.”

Despite having lost all four previous games against the Wild this season, and going into the contest on a 10-game losing skid, the odds of the Oilers pulling out a win Thursday may actually be better than in the past.

The Wild are out of the playoff race, having lost eight straight before snapping their skid with a 3-2 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

They don’t have anything to play for and are still coming to grips with another disappointing season.

The Oilers, while having been out of the playoff race for months, have long since accepted their situation and due to a rash of injuries, have players in their lineup that are just happy to be here, are playing all out and are trying to make a lasting impression.

It’s the one thing the Oilers have going, essentially just playing out the string.

“Guys are working hard, they’re taking all the opportunities they’re getting because of the injuries and are using them,” Gilbert said. “These guys are playing great for us, they’re going out and giving it everything they have.

“These guys are battling for spots, not only for next year, but down the road. They want to prove they have what it takes to be an NHL player. They’re doing great and they’re doing everything that they can to play here and that’s what it takes.”

Players such as Teemu Hartikainen, Chris Vande Velde, Jeff Petry and Ryan O’Marra are playing with an enthusiasm usually reserved for the start of the season.

The hope is their zeal for the game, regardless of the Oilers place in the standings, will remain infectious as the regular season winds down.

“It should be infectious,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “At the same time, that’s something that has to be incumbent with anybody and it’s not always easy.

“The guys who have been called up, regardless of their age, have a tendency to breath some life into your situation. If they had not done that, we’ve would have had a problem. But they’ve certainly come in and have given everything of themselves and it does get contagious.”

ROY IN NET: The Oilers signed Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL) goaltender Olivier Roy to a three-year entry-level contract.

The six-foot, 180-pounder played for Team Quebec at the 2008 Canada-Russia Challenge, and was part of the silver-medal winning Team Canada at the 2011 World Juniors.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


Videos

Photos