Oilers looking to cut down on high-danger scoring chances against

Kyle Bukauskas reports from Edmonton where the Oilers prepare to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

EDMONTON — It was the first practice all season where the Edmonton Oilers were staring a three-game losing streak square in the eye. So head coach Dave Tippett did something his team hasn’t seen this season. He gathered his troops and opened the day with a little frank, pre-practice conversation.

So, with the Toronto Maple Leafs on tap for a Hockey Night in Canada bout tonight, what was Tippett’s message?

Spoiler alert: He’s not telling.

“Just a little bit of where we’re at, what we’ve got to be thinking about in practice,” he said vaguely. “Normally we would have a meeting before, but we came out a little later today. We had a short little meeting on the ice, and had a good practice.”

OK. Really, we know what he was talking about, don’t we?

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His Oilers are hemorrhaging Grade-A scoring chances and not getting enough big saves from their goalies to stem the tide. Coming off back-to-back games in which Edmonton allowed six goals against, we’re guessing the conversation centered around playing with more attention to defence, a trait these Oilers have abandoned of late.

“There are some issues,” Tippett admitted. “We’re not giving up a lot of chances, but the ones we are have been real good ones. I look at the (Minnesota Wild game, a 6-5 loss), and there were some we can take out of our game just by managing the game a little better. And there were ones where we had missed assignments. We can address both of those.”

Leon Draisaitl, who sits second in National Hockey League scoring with 55 points — but is minus-3 on the season — is a metaphor for Edmonton’s game right now. Lots of goals going in — at both ends.

“We’re scoring enough goals to win hockey games,” Draisaitl said. “We’ve just been giving up too much. (Today) is a good test, a skilled (Leafs) group. Should be an exciting game.”

The Oilers have come back from three- and two-goal, third-period deficits in their past two games to tie the score. However, as quickly as they came back versus the Carolina Hurricanes and the Wild, they lost those leads, eventually allowing six goals in back-to-back games.

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How does a head coach balance that good-news/bad-news scenario with his players?

“The way it balances is just by telling the truth,” Tippett reasoned. “Tell ‘em why you got down by two, and tell ‘em why we got back (to even). I like the way we push at certain times, but I don’t like some of the mistakes we’re making, at times when you can’t make those mistakes.”

Tippett also addressed his leadership group about the team’s first real adversity this season. He’s interested to see how those leaders guide the roster through the tough times, after having cruised along at the top of the Pacific Division for the first 30 games of the season.

“We’re building a culture in here where we don’t want to be a losing team anymore,” Draisaitl said. “We want to win, and we want to end losing streaks as soon as possible. It’s the first time it’s gotten to three this year for us. It’s something we want to turn around.

“It’s all about winning hockey games. During the year you have games that you’re not supposed to win that you do win, and there are games that you are supposed to win and you somehow find a way to lose. The last two games, we had a chance to win those games. We just couldn’t find a way.

“It’s a matter of focusing on building that winning mentality,” concludes Draisaitl. “It doesn’t always have to be pretty — the points (are all that) matter at the end.”


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