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Oilers aim at reducing mistakes, focus on offensive pluses as they prepare for Predators

Most times when a National Hockey League team shoots 50 pucks on an opposing goalie, they and their fans expect a win.

Thursday night at Rogers Place failed to be one of those times for the Edmonton Oilers, though.

The home side fired 49 shots Dallas Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood’s way, three of them getting past him for goals, two of them by not-so-newcomer Sam Gagner in the third period.

Dallas scored four on 27 shots, however — three of them on odd-man rushes — for the victory.

For Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm, failing to capitalize on scoring chances are ultimately what’s costing his team wins.

“It’s many factors that factor into it,” Ekholm said to reporters on Friday following practice. “The odd game, it’s the rushes that’s the problem; the odd game, it’s mental errors or mistakes or lapses, whatever you want to call it. I think it’s a matter of, right now, we’re not scoring at the pace where we can mask those mistakes and it’s costing us games. We’ve got to have a little bit of understanding that we need to play a little bit tighter, make sure we don’t get those mistakes or give up easy goals, so to speak … We’ve got to make teams earn the goals more in some areas.”

Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl said individual errors are more to blame than the style the team is playing when it comes to some of their losses, adding if he and his teammates “keep putting pucks on net” like they did against the Stars, they will usually score enough to win.

“It seems to me like it’s a little bit more individual mistakes than systematic or anything like that,” said Draisaitl, who was kept off the score sheet Thursday night. “I think individually we lose our sharpness for a second and it seems like every time that happens, it’s in the back of the net, so something that we need to fix obviously.”

And while a record of 2-6-1 that puts them 30th in the NHL standings heading into Friday night action is “not acceptable,” Ekholm said any answer is best served by constructive work, not by panic.

“We have to be solution-based and want to work towards a solution,” said Eklholm, whose former team, the Nashville Predators (4-6, 25th), are next on the Oilers’ home schedule on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“We know how this team can get hot. I was part of it last year towards the end (when the Oilers finished the 2022-23 regular season on a 14-0-1 run) where you just glaring hot and you can’t lose games pretty much.

“We’re in a funk right now. We’re in a bit of a hole and a slow start, but at the same time … there have been games where we haven’t liked our effort or been outplayed, but there’s also been especially these last two games here where we’ve played pretty decent and we’re working towards winning hockey games.” 

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