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Disappointed Chiarelli trying to repair Oilers' leaks after slow start

Struggles of season feel 'like death by a thousand cuts,' Edmonton GM says

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli likened the first two months of this season to "death by a thousand cuts" on Tuesday.

Chiarelli, speaking before the Oilers hosted the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place (9 p.m. ET; SNW, TSN4, NHL.TV), said he is working on addressing "a number of areas" for Edmonton (9-13-2), in seventh place in the Pacific Division standings and 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.

"I'm disappointed as to where we are, it's a little bit like death by a thousand cuts right now," Chiarelli said. "When you're patching up one area, another area opens up. At one point it was scoring -- it's still a little bit, but we generate a lot of chances. Another point was defending, which includes goaltending. Our special teams in general are improving, but they still have to get better. There are a number of areas to me, and I know our staff is addressing them, one by one."

Expectations were high for the Oilers after they finished second in the Pacific Division with 103 points last season. Edmonton qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006, but lost in seven games to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Second Round. 

The most notable roster change the Oilers made was trading forward Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for forward Ryan Strome on June 22. Eberle has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 23 games for the Islanders; Strome has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 24 games for the Oilers.

Video: EDM@BOS: Strome nets wicked bar-down wrister

Edmonton is also without defenseman Andrej Sekera, who sustained a knee injury in the playoffs and is expected back in the lineup in mid-December. 

"It's fair to say that [offseason moves] are not panning out in general, but part of being a GM is you have to balance fixing and going with your gut and applying patience," Chiarelli said. "That's not to say that we're not trying to fix these things. A lot of things aren't going right at this point, we're trying to work our way through it."

Chiarelli said he is looking at possible trades to improve Edmonton, but is not ready to give up on the group he assembled. 

"We're in second-last in our division, third last in the League, it's obviously a spot we are very disappointed to be in," he said. "You have to be vigilant, but you can't overreact in the sense that you can't just blow things up. This doesn't mean we aren't looking at opportunities for players. It doesn't mean we're going to be patient all year with this group. It just means we're trying to figure it out. We'd like see some traction somewhere and if we don't, we're going to have to take a different tack."

Edmonton completed a five-game road trip with a 4-2 win at the Boston Bruins on Sunday, but was 2-5-1 in its previous eight games.

The Oilers, who have won consecutive games once this season, have been held to two goals or fewer in 14 of their 24 games. 

"There are a number of things, but it goes back to mental," Chiarelli said. "It goes back to a little bit what we talked about this summer, about managing expectations. I think things can spiral a little bit mentally, so you have to really deal with that, you consciously or subconsciously get into a comfort level and I think consciously or subconsciously underestimate the opponent."

Chiarelli said he still has confidence in coach Todd McLellan and the rest of his staff.

"There is a balance. You have to let these things play out to a certain degree, you have to act when you feel they're not getting fixed," Chiarelli said. "You have to look externally, you have to look internally, you have to look at your coaching staff, you have to look at your management staff, and you look at a lot of different things. 

"There is no easy answer; no one is going to help us right now. There are opportunities, we have been beating the bushes a little bit and there are things that are coming around. We basically have to be on top of it, we hope that we are and we're going to try and continue to fix this."

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