So far through four games, the Oilers are one of five teams who have not yet registered a power play goal this season. So is it time to panic? Head Coach Craig MacTavish says in fact the opposite is true.
“We’re evolving as a group on that power play. I think we have the elements. We’re executing a lot of the elements that we’re asking them to do. We haven’t had anything to show for it – we’re disappointed by that but we’re not frustrated,” MacTavish remarked, noting that frustration never helps a slumping power play.
“It’s just a case of working through it. The first thing that happens when you do get frustrated is you come out of your roots and your execution fails.”
The new quarterback of Edmonton’s power play this season is Sheldon Souray. He and his big shot were acquired this offseason with the hope of injecting some life in the Oilers’ 27th-ranked unit. He also said it’s a long season and will take some time.
“It’s really important to remember that we said at the beginning everything’s not going to go smooth. You’re not going to win 82 games. You have to react after losses in a professional manner and get back on the horse – and we’re going to do that,” he said. “Especially with all the pressure that’s going to come with playing in a city like Edmonton and the focus that’s going to be on the team.”
Confidence is still there despite two straight road losses.
“The psyche around here is still good,” Souray continued. “Our power play is something that we’ve worked on and we really want it to be a force for us this year.
“It’s all new personnel. It’s all new things for a lot of guys – different things are being asked of different guys right now but I don’t think anyone should count us out and think we aren’t going to be effective this year. We are going to be effective.”
This is also a case where the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The team had a number of great chances five-on-four versus Philadelphia, particularly in the first period. Against Detroit the Oilers fired eight shots on the power play.
“We’re not panicking by any stretch,” Souray concurred. “We’ve had some opportunities. We’re trying a couple of different things and want to get back to the basics a little bit. We’ve got to get hungrier. Both goals we scored on the trip were highlight reel goals but the type of team we are we have to get our noses dirty a little bit more. If we get guys in front of the night to battle and score goals we’ll have the success we want.”
Coach MacTavish also mentioned that he thinks the power play is on the right track.
“We had a lot of good looks against Philadelphia that normally would be in the back of the net. It’s something we’ve got to continue to work our way through. I think we’re going to have some success with it before too long.”
On the other side of it, if the Oilers can manage to stay disciplined like they did on Wednesday in Minnesota with only one minor penalty, success will be a lot easier to come by regardless of how the power play does.
“We only took one penalty last night and that’s what’s plagued us a lot of times against Vancouver in the past. The D-zone coverage has turned into power plays for them and we need to be a lot better positionally, especially against the Sedin line,” MacTavish remarked. GAGNER LIKELY TO BE RE-INSERTED
The team went with some different looks in practice – partly out of necessity with Shawn Horcoff
sitting out for precautionary reasons after getting hurt in the faceoff circle Wednesday.
Taking Horcoff’s spot on the top line between Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky
was Sam Gagner
. While Gagner won’t necessarily be playing in that position during Friday’s game, MacTavish noted in his post-practice comments that Gagner is very likely to return to the lineup after seeing things from up top Wednesday.
“The bottom line is there aren’t too many 18 year olds that have had great success at the NHL level. It’s a process he’s working through and I think there’s great value to be here now working with NHL players.”
MacTavish said that he has been impressed overall with the work ethic and hockey smarts Gagner has displayed as an 18 year old.
“He sure hasn’t proven to me that he doesn’t belong here. He’s not going to play every night but it’s of value to sit upstairs. A lot of times you can recognize you have a lot more time than what you think you do on the ice. A lot of times players play better coming out of the box.”POULIOT PERFORMS
Another notable change was MacTavish had Marc Pouliot playing with Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll on the second line.
“I’ve liked Pouliot the last couple of games,” said MacTavish. “He shows good composure with the puck. He’s not turning the puck over, he’s making good heady plays with the puck. I want to give him more of an opportunity based on those things.”
MacTavish gave Pouliot 14:05 of icetime Wednesday against Minnesota. He had two shots on goal and won his only faceoff. STOLL READY FOR INTRA-DIVISIONAL CHALLENGE
The Canucks are in town to open the Oilers’ first home-and-home series of the season. While Vancouver hasn’t had a particularly strong start, it’s always a tough contest when these two Western Canadian rivals meet.
“I don’t mind it. Especially with teams in your division, you play them so many times that getting home-and-home is good,” said centre Jarret Stoll.
Last season, the Canucks were outstanding within their division, particularly against Edmonton going 6-2-0. The year before the opposite was the case with Edmonton making it and Vancouver on the sidelines.
“We know what’s at stake,” Stoll remarked. “Obviously, you win your divison you’re going to be sitting well. Games within your division are so important now that you play so many of them that they’re huge.”
One thing fans can expect tonight is a much different brand of hockey from what they saw Wednesday night in Minnesota. It should be a much more up-and-down style of game.
“When we play Vancouver they’re always good games. They’re always hard-fought, chippy battles. They’ve got good goaltending too with Luongo who came off a rough outing but I’m sure he’s going to be prepared, ready and focused to play well.
“And Roli’s played solid for us, too.”