SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers showing some grit

Eric Belanger (gets stopped by Colorado Avalanche's Kevin Porter and Semyon Varlamov during the...

Eric Belanger (gets stopped by Colorado Avalanche's Kevin Porter and Semyon Varlamov during the Oilers 3-2 shootout loss in Denver Saturday night. Mark Leffingwell/Reuters

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:21 AM ET

They say it’s not how many you win, it’s how many you show up for.

The Edmonton Oilers are very fond of that expression, of course, because they don’t win many.

They don’t always show up right away, either, but on most nights this season they have eventually joined the fray.

Even climbed up off the canvas, after being smacked around a little, to make a decent fight of it.

“One of our downfalls in the past was that when things didn’t go our way we’d kind of fall apart and everyone would kind of quit,” said Taylor Hall, whose goal late in the third period Saturday brought the Oilers back from a 2-1 deficit in Denver. “That hasn’t been the case lately.”

Edmonton’s ability to bounce back does seem a little better than it was last year.

“I think it’s way better, personally,” said Shawn Horcoff. “It’s not even close. We can bounce back from a bad period. Very few times this year have we had three bad periods.

“We’ve had bad periods, but we’ve always seemed to come back in the period that follows, and battled back.”

It used to be that if things were going south in a hockey game, they stayed that way. From bad to worse, it went. Now, the one- or two-goal deficit that used to balloon to three or four ... doesn’t.

“We’ve tended to push back a little more,” said Ryan Jones. “I think that just has a lot to do with the maturity of our hockey team.”

After getting the tying goal wiped out by an iffy goaltender interference call in Denver, they kept coming until Hall tied it with 4:43 to play.

Trailing late in the second period in San Jose, they got it to overtime and won in a shootout.

Trailing after 40 minutes in Winnipeg, they scored four times in the third period to win.

“We’re NHLers, you have to keep going, play your next shift even harder after they score, not let them get that second one,” said Hall. “Over the course of the year we’ve gotten better at that.

“We just go out there and play the game the best we can. We don’t really have anything to lose.”

Now, not losing as badly as you used to isn’t an earth-shattering accomplishment — certainly not as impressive as, say, learning how to win — but it’s something.

“That’s a big step for us, not being satisfied with losing a game,” said Horcoff. “We’re a proud group in here and we want to win, that’s the bottom line.”

In the meantime, they’ll settle for not being blown out.

“We don’t want that to happen if it’s a situation we can battle ourselves out of,” said Sam Gagner. “This year has been tough, frustrating in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t get any better by being negative and not continuing to work hard.

“I felt like we’ve done that and we have to continue to do that if we’re going to grow as a team here and be better in the future.

HOME SICK BLUES

The Oilers are returning to Rexall Place, where they are 1-6-1 in their last eight, for a four-game homestand.

Home ice used to be their wheelhouse, but not lately.

They actually have a better record on the road in the last eight games (4-3-1) than they do at home.

“It’s tough to pin point exactly,” said Ryan Smyth. “Maybe if we get back to doing simple things, playing road hockey at home. And use our fans; they’re still loyal and they still care about their hockey and so should we.”

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robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca  


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