SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers look to end Wild streak

Linesman Don Henderson (91) tries to separate Minnesota Wild defenseman Justin Falk (44) and...

Linesman Don Henderson (91) tries to separate Minnesota Wild defenseman Justin Falk (44) and Edmonton Oilers center Gilbert Brule (foreground, C) during a scuffle in the second period of their NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minnesota September 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Eric Miller)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:48 PM ET

When defeat has been sleeping on your couch for five years, messing up the house, hogging the remote and drinking your beer, it’s easy to get excited when victory stops by for a visit.

Maybe too excited.

So it’s no surprise that after their emotional 2-1 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the party line in the winning dressing room is to downplay the whole thing.

After all, satisfaction over the smallest accomplishment has lured them into trouble before.

“I think that was one of the things that hurt us last year,” said winger Taylor Hall. “After a win or two we got a little bit too high and a little bit ahead of ourselves. Maybe it’s because we’re a young team. Last year it seemed like we were able to handle the losses, but when we got a couple of wins we’d lay a real stinker. This year we’re trying to change that.”

They were great out of the chute last year, too, remember.

After a 4-0 shutout victory over Calgary, a game that provided the goal of the year from Jordan Eberle and the knockout of the year from Steve MacIntyre, they beat Florida to go 2-0 and were riding pretty high

Then they rolled into Minnesota. They lost 4-2 to the Wild, lost a re-match the Flames and lost at home to the Wild.

San Jose beat them, Calgary beat them again and then Columbus piled on. And before they knew it the Oilers had just two wins in their first eight games.

They lost 10 of their next 13 and by the end of the November were essentially out of the playoffs

“We’d win one game and it would seem like everything was fine, even if we’d lost a lot of games before that,” said Magnus Paajarvi. “We have to stay on an even keel, it’s so important. Even though it was an emotional win over Pittsburgh — home opener, fans going crazy — we have to still look back and see what we did wrong as well as what we did right.”

So here they are, back in Minnesota after a great start, ready to show they’re a different team, on the ice and between the ears, than last year.

“It’s just a little bit of a different atmosphere now,” said Hall. “I think there’s a lot more belief in the room. That’s huge, because if you can carry confidence into the games and really believe in the guy beside you, it can make a difference.”

The Wild represent a great test. They force opponents to be disciplined, patient, hard-working and to pay close attention to detail. All the things Edmonton struggles with, which is why they’ve lost 16 straight games there.

This is a chance to see if there’s any improvement from last year in a live-fire situation.

“The streak, we haven’t (won) there in however long, kind of weighs heavily on everyone’s mind,” said Hall. “It’s going to be a really good test, they always play us hard. We’re going to play them six times this year so we’d like to go out there and set the tone.”

Because as fun as the Pittsburgh game felt, it was Just One, Baby.

“We’re a lot better team this year, I think,” said Paajarvi. “And I think other teams know that as well. Maybe we’ll get a little more respect, but that means it’ll be a big challenge. They’re so good there and they play really, really tight. We’re really going to have to be on our toes to win this game.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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