SUN Hockey Pool

Licence to kill penalties

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

Excellent penalty killing is equal parts elbow grease, execution and good goaltending, and the Edmonton Oilers have been getting plenty of all three in rising to the top of the NHL heap.

After collaring Calgary with an 0-for-6 night in a 2-1 win Tuesday, the Oilers haven't allowed a power-play goal in their last 23 attempts against dating back to a 4-1 win over Columbus Nov. 10. They have the top-ranked penalty killing in the league - 10 power-play goals against on 107 attempts for an efficiency rating of 90.6%.

BREAD AND BUTTER

"It was a big part of the success we had last year," coach Craig MacTavish said.

"We're a lot more structured and more familiar with the areas where we have to be aggressive and apply pressure and we're getting great goaltending.

"We know, when things don't go well, what we have to go back to because we've had success killing penalties in the past playing some very good teams, like Detroit.

"We wouldn't have won that (playoff) series had it not been for some pretty good penalty killing."

What makes the Oilers' resiliency with a man in the box more of a feat is that the PK has stayed stingy without forward Ethan Moreau, one of the team's best penalty killers.

In the 14 games since Moreau dislocated his shoulder against the Detroit Red Wings Oct. 21, the Oilers have allowed just six goals on 61 opposition attempts.

A lot of that has been the play of Dwayne Roloson, who has the Oilers on a season-high four-game winning streak as the Chicago Blackhawks come calling tomorrow. But he's not the whole story.

"It's something we do take pride in," said Marty Reasoner. "In the game today, it's such an important part, even more so than before. If you can win the special teams, you're going to win a lot more games."

For somebody like Reasoner, who was an offensive player at Boston College, getting it right as a penalty killer takes time and effort.

It's tough toil.

It's not like players grow up thinking, 'Man, I'd love to be a penalty killer one day.'

"I wasn't in my backyard rink working on blocking shots," smiles Reasoner. "It's just one of those things where you try to make yourself valuable in any way possible.

"You accept your role and you take pride in it and try to be the best you possibly can at it."

The Oilers finished eighth in penalty killing rankings in 2005-06 at 84.1% (76 goals allowed on 478 attempts), meaning they're more than six percentage points better 21 games into this season.

"A key penalty kill can give your whole team a boost," said Jarret Stoll.

"It's so close 5-on-5, special teams can make the difference. When you're the No. 1 team in penalty killing, you're getting great goaltending, too.

'WHATEVER IT TAKES'

"You see guys out there blocking shots and sliding around, doing whatever it takes to kill the penalty," Stoll added. "You may not be scoring the goal that puts your team ahead, but you can prevent the goal that puts you behind."

The Oilers have cut down on the number of penalties they've taken.

They've allowed six or fewer power play attempts against in six straight games.


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