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10-25-2003, 09:19 AM
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Dale
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Millbury's revenge!

Mad Mike disease afflicting ex-Isles?



By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

It's been a pretty tough week for some ex-Islanders.

Call it Milbury's Revenge, chalk it up to untimely slumps or strange coincidence, but three of the guys who've come Edmonton's way in the many dealings with Mad Mike Milbury just happen to be three of the main reasons Edmonton just suffered two crushing defeats.

They're not the only reasons, but they're as good a place to start as any, so let's:

- Eric Brewer (acquired in June 2000 in a deal for Roman Hamrlik) has been an accident waiting to happen the last few games. He was a whopping minus-4 with one shot on net in the blow-out loss to Colorado, minus-1 with no shots against St. Louis.

- Tommy Salo (acquired March 1999 in a deal for Mats Lindgren) has given up nine goals in a little less than four periods of work. He's been hung out to dry a little but there's no ignoring an .863 save percentage on the year.

- Brad Isbister (acquired last March with Raffi Torres in a deal for Janne Niinimaa) has been uninspired and point-less this season and has apparently earned a spot in the press-box doghouse. When MacTavish puts together his lineup tonight, NYI will likely stand for Not You, Izzy.

"Nothing's ever written in stone,'' said head coach Craig MacTavish, who had rookie Jarret Stoll skating on the fourth line in practice. "But he could (be out).''

Isbister isn't scoring, isn't hitting and isn't playing mean, which is pretty much the entire job description when you're supposed to be a power forward.

"I hate to point the finger at one guy when we've given up 12 goals in two games,'' said MacTavish. "But you have to be giving us something - offence, consistent physical play, good defensive play, good on the penalty kill, and as of yet we haven't got that.

"He's not the only guy, but he's the guy who's drawn the short straw. There are other changes to be made as well unless we get this thing turned around.''

Brewer was more like Brew-tal against the Avs. He got stripped behind the net on a Colorado shorthanded goal and tried to play the puck instead of knocking Forsberg on a his butt, giving Forsberg three whacks at the puck before he finally scored.

"He's got to play better,'' said MacTavish. "At times when Brew struggles he tries to do too much and instead of simpliflying his game he complicates it and finds himself in more trouble. It's not an unwillingness on his part, he wants to get it done, but at times he tries to do too much.''

Sometimes, just hammering the puck out of danger is the best play.

"Cory Cross is a good example for Brew,'' said MacTavish. "He s a guy who doesn't have Brew's physical skills, but he simplifies the game and makes smart simple plays and he's been more effective.''

Brewer knows he's fighting it.

"I can't remember the last time I had a night like that,'' he said of his own, personal Colorado avalanche. "Last game just snowballed. You come to a point and say, OK, something has to be done, but it just doesn't get any better. It's kind of mercy at the end.''

Brewer, a six-year veteran and former Olympian, was supposed to be head and shoulders Edmonton's best defenceman by now, but isn't. Has his development plateaued, or are growing pains like this part of the process?

"Is this the type of stretch that a player like Brew needs to go through to get better?'' wondered MacTavish. "One of the first stages of turning it around is recognizing that you're not playing up to your capabilities, and he certainly understands that. There's no motivator like failure.''

Brewer will work at it, not beat himself up over it.

"It happens to everyone,'' he said. "You just play the game, come to the rink, do your thing and try not to worry about it a whole lot. You carry on and don't dwell too much on it. There's tons of games left. It's going to be corrected.''

Salo's allowed nine goals on his last 40 shots (a .775 save percantage). He came in cold at the start of a five-minute Colorado power play, and didn't get a lot of support in his last couple of games, but there were more iffy goals than big saves in both games.

LATE HITS ... MacTavish gave Georges Laraque a long lecture after practice in Denver yesterday. Laraque's been a carbon copy of Isbister this year - one assist in seven games and a non-factor physically. "For him, it's skating,'' said MacTavish. "One day he looks like the fastest guy on the ice, the next day it looks like he can't skate. How does that happen?"

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