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BLOG: Petry, Oilers focus on ending defensive struggles

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers defensive core was the target of some criticism by Head Coach Dallas Eakins following last night's 6-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. The coach and his players met today to discuss the breakdowns last night and the need for more communication on the ice.

"As a group, we are all very aware of the breakdowns last night and the challenge is not to turn it into something bigger," said Eakins. "I hope we covered that off this morning. It was a long meeting where I did a lot of talking. I asked for the group's input. They all agreed where we were at. So hopefully, it was just a blip on the radar. Overall over the last five or six games, I've liked our game overall. Now the challenge comes to not turning this into a total loss of confidence, which puts you very deep in a hole that we have been in and we have been trying to dig ourselves out of."

Communication was a major topic in Eakins' post-game presser last night and the players continued discussion of that topic following practice today.

"We've got to talk more," said Justin Schultz. "I think we're getting confused in our d-zone and it's not helping us. We just talk and keep working at it in practice and we should get better."

Defenceman Jeff Petry admitted today that he was responsible for a few of the miscues in last night's loss. He's taking those mistakes to heart and deciding to use those experiences to turn his game back on track.

"It's just a matter of learning from them," said Petry. "Mistakes are going to be made. It's a matter of trying to eliminate them out of the game as quickly as possible."

Last night, Eakins said he wanted to see more from Petry. However, today he was happy that his defenceman faced the media and owned up to his mistakes against Phoenix.

"That's great that he said that," said the Oilers bench boss. "That's the first step, for me. That's a hard thing to do. Especially, when you're not only a player, just human, to accept full responsibility for the mistakes and that's a great trait, thats a great step in the right direction. That being said, yes, (Petry) has been on the wrong end of the stick, so to say, on a couple of goals lately. We have to help there too.

"We don't ever want to pin plays on just one guy. We talked last night after the game and we had a lengthy discussion this morning in our video session about communication. I think on a couple of plays where Petry was the victim, communication could have helped. But it goes back to resetting the player, for me. You eventually get to a point where you have to go back to the bare bones and basics of playing defence. That's what a big part of our meeting this morning was."

Knowing that his coach told the media he wanted more out of him, Petry is looking to respond with better play.

"We've all been in positions like that where we aren't feeling our best and things like that," said Petry. "It's a matter of how you respond to it. I can fall deeper into a hole or I can respond to it. I think that that's what I'm going to focus on, how I'm going to respond."

He added, "You've got to find the positives out of any situation… That game last night wasn't all negative. We played well during bits and pieces of that game so we've got to pick and get some confidence from those moments that we were playing well and we've got to focus on doing that for a full game."

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