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Slow starts still plaguing Edmonton Oilers

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For the first time this season, the Edmonton Oilers have a losing streak.

Time to panic?

“The sky’s not falling here,” captain Connor McDavid said Monday afternoon, a day after the Oilers were beaten 5-1 by the L.A. Kings, marking the team’s first back-to-back defeats of the campaign.

Read more: Connor McDavid ejected for boarding as Edmonton Oilers fall to Kings

“It’s an everyday league. You have to show up every game and give yourself a chance to win,” McDavid added, highlighting one of the Oilers’ big problems: they simply haven’t been showing up on time.

Los Angeles Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot (7) and Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) battle for the puck during second period NHL action in Edmonton, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The team’s first periods have often been lacking energy and production. They’ve been falling behind, having allowed the first goal in 14 of their 23 games.

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“I don’t think there are tricks. I think it’s just a mindset,” defenceman Tyson Barrie said of the poor starts.

“I’ve been on some teams that have been notoriously slow starters. We certainly don’t want to be put in that category.”

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (22) reaches across Seattle Kraken right wing Joonas Donskoi toward the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Seattle. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Read more: Edmonton Oilers sunk in Seattle

“I think there are ebbs and flows of the year,” McDavid said. “Obviously right now is a little bit of a lull. We can’t let that slide for too long.

“We’ve done a good job of not losing back-to-back games for a while. We can’t let it get to a third.”

As the sputtering starts pile up, head coach Dave Tippett has reached into his bag of tricks for a solution.

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“One thing works one time and the other time it doesn’t work,” Tippett reflected.

“We have little challenges now and then. Shots or hits in a period to start the game — all those things we talk about all the time.”

Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett talks to his players during second period pre-season NHL game action against the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

On Monday, Tippett decided keeping the players off the ice would be best. He changed the practice from mandatory to optional. Instead of skating, the players who dressed Sunday got in a workout and a video session.

“I watched the game again last night,” Tippett explained.

“We were a tired group all the way through. Heavy legs — not reacting to stuff.”

Tippett added that injured goalie Mike Smith may have been able to take part in a practice had there been one. Smith has been out since Oct. 16.

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McDavid didn’t offer much when asked about the major penalty for boarding and game misconduct he received in the game against the Kings.

“I don’t talk want to talk too much about reffing or anything like that. The call was the call,” he said.

“It’s good that they have a chance to review it on the ice now. They stuck by their decision.”

The Oilers (16-7) will host the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. Catch the game on 630 CHED with The Faceoff Show at 5:30 p.m. The game starts at 7 p.m.

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