SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers have been streaky

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:26 PM ET

DALLAS -- Who says they can't?

Who'd have bet a buck the Edmonton Oilers would've rolled into Texas yesterday boasting a five-game winning streak after laying a 7-2 spanking on the St. Louis Blues?

Who thought they'd have a chance to win their sixth straight - which would constitute the team's longest streak since March 2002 - by beating the Dallas Stars in the Lone Star State for the second time in 11 days? That's 11 days, not 11 games. Sure you did.

Hands up, everybody who thought all this possible without Ty Conklin, out with a bad groin and fractured confidence, Michael Peca, missing for two games with a mild concussion, and Marty Reasoner. Then, there's injured defencemen Igor Ulanov, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Cory Cross.

This is a winning streak that, on the face of things, has had no business happening.

10 STRAIGHT STARTS

Just don't tell that to Jussi Markkanen, who has started 10 straight games with Conklin in the minors and is now in Edmonton facing groin problems that could put him on the shelf long term.

Don't tell Jarret Stoll and Raffi Torres, who are both ridiculously hot, it can't be done. Likewise, Jani Rita, who scored the seventh goal in the butt-kicking of the Blues and seems to be finding his niche - one that doesn't include the letters A-H-L. You read right.

The Oilers, as full of holes as they are with injuries, are looking and playing like a team that believes anything is possible, with Markkanen and a bunch of kids leading the way.

Didn't see this streak coming.

"I just hope it's not too much confidence," smiled coach Craig MacTavish, who gave the Oilers yesterday off after Friday's rout in the Show Me State.

The Red Wings had won nine straight before the Oilers waltzed in and beat them 4-3 in overtime Thursday on 35 saves by Markkanen and a goal by Torres, who decided it with his ninth goal of the season.

It was Stoll's turn Friday. He had a career-high four points, including two goals, as the Oilers won at the Savvis Center for the first time since 1999, a span of ineptitude including eight losses and three ties. Torres had three assists. Ales Hemsky extended his point-scoring streak to five games with an assist. Alexei Semenov scored the 2-0 goal.

DIDN'T LOOK OUT OF PLACE

Then, there was Danny Syvret, who didn't look out of place in his NHL debut after being summoned from Hamilton. He played just over 18 minutes in a pairing with Dan Smith, also called up with the back end hurting.

"I liked what I saw out of Syvret, in terms of his ability to move the puck," said MacTavish. "Kyle Brodziak, I thought, played his best game. He was skating and harder on the puck. I guess that's getting familiar.

"In Detroit, I thought he was a little tentative. That's a tough building to play your first game in after getting called up. I thought he was good."

For prospects like Brodziak and Syvret, the test-by-fire has come more quickly than anticipated. For Rita, the team's first-round draft pick in 1999, the glimpses of game he's showing now are overdue, a case of now or never. The kid deserves credit. He's coming around.

"You get a sense of whether they can handle the role when you put them in that situation," said MacTavish, who gave Rita a 12-game look in 2002-03, but wasn't sold. "Until you actually get the player, you don't know."

While it's more by circumstance than design, what MacTavish didn't know until now, he is finding out.

He can't help but like what he sees. The wins have been a bonus.

"It's good to get a look at the young guys," he said. "Especially when you don't pay the price of a bunch of mistakes being made."


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