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Oilers' Hall keen to end slump

Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall is tended to by a trainer after getting hit in the face during their...

Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall is tended to by a trainer after getting hit in the face during their NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Edmonton on Oct. 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:11 PM ET

Taylor Hall is trying to do everything in his power to avoid an extended scoring slump.

Yet, somehow, that may be part of the problem.

Work ethic has never been an issue for Hall, but lately, the Edmonton Oilers winger seems to be pressing a little too hard.

“I think Taylor is always at his best when he’s attacking,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “But there is a disconnection between our defenceman and our forwards right now when it comes to retrieving and moving pucks. The greater that gap becomes the tougher it is to play the game, because there are awfully good players and teams and checkers that get in the way of that.

“For him as for everybody, we’re too disconnected right now and that’s on either side of the puck in all three zones.”

Hall, 20, has three goals and seven assists heading into Thursday’s game, at home, against the Ottawa Senators.

He hasn’t scored in eight games, dating back to Oct. 27, when he buried a Jordan Eberle pass on an elaborate three-way passing play against the Washington Capitals.

“I’ve had some chances, I hit the crossbar the last game, that’s just the way it goes,” Hall said. “Sometimes when you’re not scoring, it’s something little that you need to change in your game that helps turn it around. I’m trying to find out what that is, it’s tough. But I think the biggest thing you have to worry about is the team game and eventually that’s going to carry you through, and that’s going to make you a better player.”

Last season, Hall struggled early on to get off the mark, but eventually found his stride on his way to a 22-goal season.

He would have added to that total had an ankle injury not brought a premature end to his year.

This season, Hall collected at least a point in seven of his first 10 games, but has just one point to show for his last seven contests.

“Last year, I don’t think I went more than seven games without scoring and now I’m at eight, so this is new territory for me,” Hall said. “All it takes is one goal, a point or even a really good shift, where things turn around for you and you get some confidence. I know personally, when I have confidence, I feel like a different player out there.”

Breaking down his game as the Oilers have lost four of their last five, Hall sees room for improvement.

There is no one more critical of Hall’s game than Hall himself.

“Sometimes I’m skating past pucks, and I’m not in the right position in the offensive zone to get a lot of good chances,” Hall said. “Normally, if you get three and four and five quality chances per game, eventually you’re going to score. I just have to work on getting those and being good away from the puck. I was playing well defensively at the start of the year, and now I’ve been on for a few goals against. If I can do that, I think my game can turn around.”

According to Renney, Hall’s lack of production is not all on the budding star.

As a team, the Oilers are not doing the small things that made him successful early in the season. They’re not protecting the puck well enough and not moving it out of their zone as effectively as they were during the first month of the year.

“The bottom line is that we have to make sure that we get to pucks quick, that we have close first support and beyond that second and third support,” Renney said. “It’s a matter of maybe this experience of losing, this experience of maybe being fatigued, doesn’t interrupt the way you have to play in order to have success. I think it’s something our whole team has gone through in these last five days.”

Either way, Renney figures it’s a matter of time before Hall and the team finds it’s way again.

“I’ve had players in the past that go nowhere very, very quick. That’s a hockey-sense issue, that’s very tough to overcome,” Renney said. “But Taylor doesn’t fit in that category. He’s a smart kid, he has great instincts, he’s got power, he’s got the (guts) to want to get the puck, which is huge, but we have to work together with him to get the puck up the ice and get it to the net. We just have to get more connected.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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