Oilers aim for Minny break

Edmonton Oilers' Shawn Horcoff (L) is cross-checked from behind by Minnesota Wild's Nick Schultz...

Edmonton Oilers' Shawn Horcoff (L) is cross-checked from behind by Minnesota Wild's Nick Schultz during their NHL hockey game in Edmonton October 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:12 PM ET

You can set your watch by two Edmonton Oilers trends — hot one game and cold the next, and they always lose in Minnesota.

Given their inconsistency issues and their penchant for being consistently off in Minny, then coming off a rousing 6-2 win in Nashville and rolling into the Xcel Energey Center can mean only one thing: certain defeat.

Certain, frustrating, mind-boggling defeat.

“We’ve heard this so many times,” said head coach Tom Renney, no fan of the 17-straight losses angle. “If people want to breathe life into it, that’s fine.”

Only because the Oilers have been breathing death into the story line since Dec 14, 2006.

Defenceman Tom Gilbert is in his sixth season with Edmonton and has never won a game in his home state.

“It would be nice to have my family cheering after,” he said after Thursday’s practice in the land of gloom.

“They’re always happy to see me play and it’s nice to have them come to the games, but it would be nice to give them a big hug after a win instead of a loss.”

Sam Gagner has never won here, either.

“Obviously two of those years we were last place in the league, so we lost in a lot of buildings,” said the fifth-year-Oiler. “But it’s not acceptable. Our hope is that we play a solid road game and we’re able to put all this behind us.

“This streak isn’t something we think about, but it would be nice to finish it. We’ve been playing pretty well and hopefully we can keep it going.”

It doesn’t make sense. The Wild haven’t even really been all that good over the past six years. Of course, neither have the Oilers, but they still managed to win in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Vancouver and just about everywhere else in the NHL.

Just not here.

“They play really well at home, regardless of who they’re playing,” said Gilbert. “But against us they just found ways to win. We’ve been in a handful of games, even had the lead, but they always score the late goal. It’s going to happen eventually, you just can’t focus on it.”

The Oilers are vowing, like they vowed 17 times before, that time will be different

Only this time it’s different.

Just ask them.

“We’re a different team now,” said Gagner. “We’re better all-around and we don’t make as many crucial mistakes where we turn it over at blue lines.”

That’s what’s killed them in the past. The Wild are horrible to watch, bad for the game, but they’re also a disciplined lot that sits back in a passive 1-4 forecheck and frustrates opponents into mistakes — the kind of strategy that gives a young, impatient team like Edmonton the most trouble.

“If mentally we can stay strong the entire game, play another game like we did in Nashville, we should do OK,” said Gagner, pointing out how Edmonton generated six goals by refusing to try and force things against the Predators’ trap. “We were able to draw some penalties, score on the power play, then things opened up and we scored even more goals. We just have to make sure we don’t get lulled into that trap.”

That it’s the afternoon after U.S. Thanksgiving might work in Edmonton’s favour this time. And they might also gain a little faith in the fact the Columbus Blue Jackets just ended a 17-game losing streak in Nashville.

“There’s hope,” said Renney.

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


Videos

Photos