EDMONTON — The challenge for the Edmonton Oilers heading into a five-game road trip isn’t as much about climbing into a playoff spot as it is about digging out of the NHL basement.
While that’s not setting the bar very high, it’s reality for the fading Oilers, who have just four wins in their last 18 games and sit in 14th place in the Western Conference heading into a trip that begins in Detroit on Thursday.
With the Oilers having lost Ales Hemsky to a season-ending shoulder injury that will require surgery, starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin still out with back problems and a lineup patched together with call-ups, some fans have already written off 2009-10.
A hopeless situation just 27 games in? As bad as things are now, the Oilers they aren’t having any of it. “That idea doesn’t even cross the mind of anyone in the organization,” said Andrew Cogliano.
“We’re 27 games into the season. To say that right now, I think it’s a complete joke.
“Yes, we have a lot of injuries. That’s true. It doesn’t mean we can’t win games and make the playoffs. It’s early. It’s way too early. It’s not like this is the 70th game and you call it quits now.”
Coming off a 7-3 loss in Vancouver on Saturday, the Oilers are 10-13-4 for 24 points, including a 4-11-3 stretch that’s undone a 6-2-1 start, as they make stops in Detroit, Dallas, Florida, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.
Hemsky is gone. Khabibulin’s back will keep him out for the start of the trip at the very least. Denis Grebeshkov is recovering from knee surgery. Mike Comrie is out with mononucleosis.
Fernando Pisani is out with colitis. Shawn Horcoff is playing with a bad shoulder.
“I like that the guys are fighting hard,” coach Pat Quinn said. “We didn’t give up after a lousy start the other night (down 4-0 in Vancouver). We bounced back. They didn’t run away. That, to me, is a sign that we’ve got some character here.”