EDMONTON (CP) - In a season of failure and disappointment for the Edmonton Oilers, Raffi Torres and Joffrey Lupul find themselves unwilling but worthy poster boys for expectations unfulfilled.
After coming within a win of a Stanley Cup celebration against the Carolina Hurricanes last spring, the Oilers face the prospect of missing the playoffs in the Western Conference altogether.
Torres, who scored 27 goals last season and added four more in playoffs, was supposed to play a big part in a return to contention. He has 13 goals in what's been a confidence-busting exercise in frustration.
Lupul, who arrived from Anaheim as part of the Chris Pronger trade on July 3, was expected to take some of the sting out of losing the big blue-liner after scoring 28 goals for the Ducks in 2005-06. He's got 15. It wasn't supposed to go this way.
"It hasn't been fun," Torres said. "Personally, it's been a very disappointing year. I came in thinking I could get at least 25. Obviously, I'm not going to get that. It'll take wonders to get anywhere near that."
How bad has it been? When Torres and Lupul were told after practice Tuesday - the day of the NHL trade deadline - coach Craig MacTavish wanted to see them, both thought they might have tickets out of town.
It turns out MacTavish wanted to suggest they put in some extra time riding the stationary bikes in the gym to work on conditioning.
"I knew there was a possibility," Lupul said, asked about being moved at the deadline. "This team was a win away from the Stanley Cup and we expected to get back to the playoffs and try to take a run at it again.
"Obviously, everyone here is disappointed with how things have gone."
Torres, 25, began the season on MacTavish's second line alongside Petr Sykora and Ales Hemsky. With his contract up at the end of this season, that was seen as a gold-plated opportunity to build on what most people thought was a breakout campaign.
In Thursday's 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild with his big opportunity long gone, Torres was playing on the fourth unit. Scoring two goals in the Oilers first 19 games and two goal-less streaks of 11 games will do that.
"I've played fourth line before. I've got no problem with that," said Torres, who was behind only Ryan Smyth on the left side depth chart when the season began. "What I have to do is go out and create energy, finish my hits and get in guys faces."
Lupul, 23, shrugged off questions about the pressures of playing in his hometown and being the centrepiece of the Pronger trade when the season began. Providing answers on the ice has been more difficult.
Playing with a carousel of linemates, Lupul never has found his game. He's a minus-18 - the worst on the team. With the Oilers desperately in need of wins in the stretch drive, Lupul has two goals in his last 19 games.
"I haven't been making very good offensive plays," Lupul said. "I'm not scoring when I get the chances.
"There's been times when I've felt I'm skating well and getting the chances, but the results haven't been there."
With the Oilers 11 points back of the eighth-place Calgary Flames, who come calling at Rexall Place Saturday, Torres and Lupul, like their teammates, can only buckle down and try to finish with a flourish.
"We have to look at it like we can pull something out," said Torres. "It can happen. You have to be optimistic. Whatever the personal situation, I have to do what I can to find my own game and help the team any way I can."
Better late than never - even if it's too late.
"It want to finish strong," Lupul said. "Just, basically, to prove to myself that I can still do it. I've done it before and had success. It would be nice to have a little more and have a bit of a building block for next year."