SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers doing an exceptional job short-handed

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

Coach Craig MacTavish, being a superstitious sort, doesn't want to talk about the Edmonton Oilers prowess at killing penalties over the last six games, but everybody else does.

After blanking the Los Angeles Kings on four attempts in a 4-0 victory Thursday, the Oilers have put together a string of 28 straight successful penalty kills as the Calgary Flames come calling tonight.

MacT was mum yesterday after the Oilers skated at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, but not his players.

"It's obviously important," said captain Jason Smith.

"It's been something we've been working on all year. Anytime your penalty killing and power play are executing at a high level, you have a chance to win."

MacTavish's penalty killers haven't allowed a power-play goal since Daniel Sedin potted one to help the Vancouver Canucks beat the Oilers 4-1 at Rexall Place March 21.

Since that game, one in which the Canucks went 1-for-10, the Oilers collared the Canucks (0-for-3 and 0-for-4) in the next two games of a three-game series, then blanked Colorado in three tries, Minnesota in five and Los Angeles in four.

"Where our success comes from is we've had good down-ice pressure, which translates into (teams) not getting good entries into our zone," said Michael Peca.

"Teams are going to have success and generate chances if you give them an opportunity to set up. We're not giving teams as much of an opportunity as they would like to get into our zone and set up."

With just eight games remaining, the stinginess while a man short couldn't come at a better time, of course. With the 28-for-28 stretch in the books, only six teams have a better percentage than the Oilers, who are sitting at 83.9%.

"I think we've just put it all together," said Smith, asked if the Oilers are doing anything different strategically while a man short.

"We've been good at part of it throughout the year and we'd go through stretches where we'd be a little bit inconsistent. Now, we've been working as four-man units and it's working well."

Ready to rumble

Georges Laraque was back on the blades yesterday and he will be ready to rumble against the Flames tonight after missing two games with a strained hip-flexor.

"It's playoff hockey now and playoff hockey is about being physical," said Laraque. "That's the way they (Calgary) beat Los Angeles. It was physical play. They wore them down.

"Our team, we matchup pretty well in that department. The game is going to be physical."

Laraque had been playing his best hockey of the season - on a line with Michael Peca and Todd Harvey - when he tweaked the hip in Colorado.

"Every year when we get close to the playoffs, I get real excited," Laraque said.

"The more it gets physical, the more players like me can make a difference.

"It's having a fourth line, having depth, that helps you win in the playoffs. That's when you can be a bigger factor."

AROUND THE RINK: Rookie Marc-Antoine Pouliot led Oilers centres by going 9-for-13 (69 %) in the faceoff circle in his NHL debut against the Kings ... Calgary's power play has been very good against the Oilers, scoring six goals on 37 attempts.


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