Edmonton Journal

Oilers draw decent crowd for skills competitio­n

Players appreciate public support despite the team’s lengthy skid


They have one of the most ineffectiv­e power plays in the NHL, they’ve scored just 76 goals in 36 games, and no team has allowed more goals than the Edmonton Oilers.

Yet in spite of winning just one of their last 21 games, those same Oilers drew a crowd large enough to fill the lower bowl, as well as a chunk of upper level seats, at Rexall Place on Sunday when they held their annual skills competitio­n.

“Despite having a tough season, it’s nice to see the support is still there,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “Obviously, it gets frustratin­g for us and for our fans. ... It is not fun right now.

“We’re trying to get out of this as a team, but once we stepped out and heard all the cheering, guys really brightened up.

“We didn’t know what to expect in respect to the reaction from the fans going in, but it was great,” he added. “I think guys had some fun out there.”

And the Oilers didn’t lose, which is saying something.

Since Oct. 27, the Oilers have won only one game at Rexall Place, and they haven’t been much better playing on the road.

They will drag a ninegame winless streak — their second-longest skid of the season — into Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. home contest against the Los Angeles Kings.

Prior to their 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 7, the Oilers went 11 games without registerin­g a victory. Edmonton is also 1-18-6 against Western Conference opponents.

“I didn’t know what to expect today, but our fans came through,” Jordan Eberle said. “I like to think they’re the best fans in the league.

“With the situation that has gone on the past years ... yet they stick by you. That’s pretty amazing,” he continued. “It really makes you want to give them something to cheer for. I think people realize it’s not like we’re going out there trying to lose.”

The skills competitio­n was closely followed by a practice session, and rightly so.

The Oilers surrendere­d three first period goals in the startling span of 100 seconds on their way to a 4-1 loss to the Flames on Saturday night in Calgary.

“A couple of guys were talking beforehand, wondering what the turnout (for skills) was going to be like, and I had feeling it was going to be good,” defenceman Jeff Petry said.

“The majority of the people out there are kids. It’s a good event for them.

“And we needed to get out after for a practice. We have things we need to work on. There are a lot of things we need to clean up and the only way to do that is to correct them in practice.

“We have a new coach — we need to learn his style of play, his mentality — and we have to do it for each other in here.” jireland@edmontonjo­urnal.com Twitter.com: @jirelandEJ

 ?? AMBER BRACKEN/ EDMONTON JOURNAL ?? Two young fans try to get a closer look during the Edmonton Oilers’ skills competitio­n on Sunday at Rexall Place.
AMBER BRACKEN/ EDMONTON JOURNAL Two young fans try to get a closer look during the Edmonton Oilers’ skills competitio­n on Sunday at Rexall Place.

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