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Coach of struggling Edmonton Oilers concedes team must get better in key areas

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

EDMONTON - As the losses mount and the frustration grows, the Edmonton Oilers are quickly running out of things to say about a season gone wrong, and about a stretch in which they've won only once in 16 games.

It is probably just as well, because talking alone cannot rescue them from a tailspin this severe. The Oilers can only regain control of their season - or, at the very least, apply the brakes to a 1-14-1 run - by their actions on the ice.

"You get hit so many times with a right, you're begging for a left," coach Pat Quinn said. "That's the reason to draw the line in the sand, again, for ourselves."

Still stinging from a 6-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Monday, the Oilers will again try to do exactly that when the Vancouver Canucks come calling at Rexall Place Wednesday.

"We've got to get better," Quinn said. "We cannot become a good team just by practising hard. Just by learning a system. We have to learn about ourselves and those intangibles it takes to play well at this level."

The Oilers are 16-27-5 after the loss in Denver. They haven't won a game in 2010. With 34 games remaining, they're 20 points behind the Los Angeles Kings, who sit eighth in the Western Conference standings.

"You've got to do it on the ice," said Oilers forward Robert Nilsson. "You can say whatever you want in here, but, sooner or later, you have to live up to those words.

"I've never lost this many games in a row my whole career. You can do a lot of things right, but, at the end of the day, when you don't win there's a lot of stuff going through your mind. That's for sure."

Even with mitigating factors - like a rash of injuries and illnesses, leading to key absences by goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (back surgery) and Ales Hemsky (shoulder surgery) - the Oilers seem to be teetering on the brink.

"There's been a lot of games in the last 16 or so where the effort has been there," said Shawn Horcoff, one of the last players off the ice after a solid 25 minutes of hard skating to end practice.

"You can live with that. When it's not there, and you're making mistakes like we did, there's going to be consequences. I think they (the coaches) are starting to show that now."

As daunting as the big picture is for the Oilers as they open a four-game homestand, the way they lost in Denver is of just as much concern. Their execution broke down and, even worse, they didn't push back.

"That's the poorest we've participated as a group, by far, so far this year," said Quinn, talking about the final 40 minutes against the Avalanche. "We can't let it happen again.

"We might not win a game the rest of the year. I don't know that, but we can't expect to be proud of who we are and our jobs and that sort of thing. You can lose and still take some pride in your work, but not that way. That's not acceptable."

The eight straight loss represents the team's longest skid since late in the 2006-07 season, when the Oilers lost 12 straight games from Feb. 25 to March 21.

If the Oilers can't muster a spark or get a break, they could match that streak of ineptitude on this homestand as they'll face Vancouver, Dallas, Chicago and St. Louis.

"I think we have some confidence individually," Nilsson said. "But we have to have confidence in each other, too, as a team. It's hard when you're losing like this to get that confidence back."


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