Jets, Oilers try to end losing streaks (Dec 11, 2016)

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Oilers’ four-game losing streak is an example of how fine the lines in hockey truly are.

Three of the four losses came in either overtime or the shootout; the one regulation loss of the four saw the Oilers establish 2-0 and 5-3 leads at Philadelphia before giving up a late goal to lose, 6-5.

So, you could argue that the Oilers were only a few breaks away from collecting eight out of a possible eight points out of those four games. They ended up with only three.

They will try to change the pattern when they host the Winnipeg Jets Sunday night at Rogers Place. The Jets will come in with tired legs, having lost 6-2 at Calgary Saturday night. It was the Jets’ third loss in a row.

“We’ve got to get the (Calgary loss) out of our mind and focus on tomorrow, and have that fire in our belly,” said Jets center Mark Scheifele, who has 27 points in 27 games this season. “(The Oilers) are a good team, they’re quick, they’re skilled and we’ve got to be ready for them.”

The hottest Oiler is center Leon Draisaitl; he has scored in five of the last six Oilers games, and has nine points over that span. He scored in Friday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild.

“I think I’m pretty confident right now,” said Draisaitl. “The puck seems to bounce my way a little bit, which didn’t happen in the first couple of games.”

But what’s been troubling for the Oilers is they held leads in each of the four straight losses. If the Oilers want to shake the decade-long pattern of missing the playoffs, the team will have to develop the mental toughness needed when it comes to getting up in a game — and seeing it through to the final buzzer.

“It’s been tough on us of late,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “The schedule, the way we’ve lost some games, the frustration level goes up and, often, when it happens it sucks a lot of energy out of you.”

But he added that he thought the Oilers’ 3-2 shootout loss in Minnesota on Friday night saw all of his players come out with strong efforts.

Now, the challenge is to turn a strong effort into a winning effort.

The Oilers will face a Jets team that’s already playing back-to-back games for the sixth time this season. By contrast, the Oilers have played just three back-to-backs this year. The game will be the Jets’ fifth in seven games.

The diabolical schedule has not pleased Jets coach Paul Maurice.

“I don’t like our schedule at all. I’ve never seen one like it,” Maurice said. “It may be the new NHL, we just have to get used to it and deal with it.”

Maurice said his team will make full use of two days off at home after they head home from Edmonton.