Oilers struggling

Oilers forward Eric Belanger (left) and talks strategy with defenceman Theo Peckham against the...

Oilers forward Eric Belanger (left) and talks strategy with defenceman Theo Peckham against the Hurricanes at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 7, 2011. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:28 AM ET

EDMONTON - The slogan in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room this year is "Relentless Together."

They were neither Wednesday.

They weren't close to being relentless.

And they definitely weren't together.

The slogan Edmonton fans adopted, when the Oilers managed to get out of the gate great this season, was more along the lines of "We don't suck anymore."

Well, hello.

They're back to sucking again.

The Edmonton Oilers have now lost 10 of the last 14 games and five of six since Taylor Hall was injured. And that's despite scoring first in 18 of 28 games, including the last eight straight.

The Oilers lost 5-3 last night to the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, a team that had played the night before in Calgary.

They lost to a team with a six-game losing streak and the worst for-against total (minus 39) in the entire league. They came to town as the team that gave up the most shots and had the 26th-ranked power play, against the young guys who had the No. 1-ranked power play at home and were 5-1-1 coming off a three-day break.

Tom Renney's team, judged both mentally and physically tired from a six-game road trip and three games in four days back home, hadn't played since Saturday.

And if you couldn't read the scoreboard, you could read the body language.

Renney called it "the most disappointing game of the year."

He said it's not like a loss last year.

"We have expectations inside of being a good team.

"This hurts. It hurts everybody. And that's good."

What happened?

"I have no idea," he said.

That's not an admission most coaches care to make.

And as the post-game grilling continued he admitted that he actually did have an idea.

For one thing, his veteran players pulled their parachutes.

"The young guys come to play hockey," he said of the kids, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who scored his 13th goal of the season and became the fastest Oilers rookie to reach 30 points.

"The veterans are supposed to be an example of how to stay with it. Leaders have to step up and seize the game."

"I didn't like the way we started," said Renney, despite the fact his team scored first.

The 'Canes had three glorious chances in the first few minutes.

"You have to emotionally connect yourself to the game," said the coach. "You have to be engaged. You have to lock in."

The crazy thing here is that first-goal statistic.

"There's a certain responsibility involved in being a good team," said Renney of the way the Oilers don't take their leads and turn them into wins, the way the league percentage says they should.

"We're struggling when it comes to taking responsibility to becoming a better team."

When the Carolina Hurricanes made it 4-1 in the second period, the sounds of booing cascaded down from the upper deck, signalling the end of patience with this team that, after two years finishing 30th, is supposed to be moving forward to compete for a playoff position.

They are moving backwards in the standings rather rapidly. If they don't turn this around now, they are not going to get those meaningful games to play in the spring.

So what do they do now?

There's no chance of a bag skate. Not only does Renney not really believe in them, but the Oilers have their final home game Friday against Phoenix, in a six-game home stand in which they have only one win, before playing Saturday night in Calgary.

"We have to come back and don't look at a single video clip, and talk about what we wanted to be before the season started and what we were at the start of the season."

Doesn't seem right that 16,839 people had to pay to watch the game -- and the Oilers don't have to watch a single video clip.


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