SUN Hockey Pool

Long, winding road

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

They've been down this road before.

The Edmonton Oilers have put together three-game winning streaks on previous occasions. The last one got them back to .500 for the first time since the opening week of the season.

But this time around it seems different.

Heading into tonight's contest against the Calgary Flames, the Oilers are arguably playing their best hockey of the season.

"It's one of those things where we're starting to play our system a lot better," said Oilers forward Fernando Pisani. "We're not making as many mistakes as we had in the past. I think guys are realizing that if we're in good positions and playing a good consistent game, then the offence will come and our defence will be sharp."

The Oilers have scored nine goals in their last two games going into tonight. They have also won their last two games in regulation. It's the first time all year they've won a pair of games without having to go into overtime or a shootout.

"We have four lines going now," said Oilers centre Jarret Stoll. "And every line is scoring, too. You can see us improving every game. The back end is getting better, the guys are making better decisions with the puck. We just have to make sure we're consistent with that and not have a game where we have tons of turnovers.

"That's the way we'd been playing in the past, we'd been getting ourselves in trouble with turnovers and we haven't seen that lately which is a good sign."

A win tonight would get the Oilers to the break-even point for the first time since their last three-game win streak in mid-December.

That particular streak, however, consisted of three straight shootout wins. It came to an end, ironically enough, in a shootout against the Dallas Stars.

Prior to their 4-0 win over the New York Islanders on Monday, the Oilers had not won a game in regulation since Dec. 2.

"It always feels a little better when you're winning games in regulation, I guess," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "I've always been under the belief that you take the result of the last game and move on quickly, based on the circumstances that have been created from the last game.

"Our team is playing better, but you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself. It's another big game (tonight). It does feel like we are executing better, though."

That execution was evident in the victories over the Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes. The win over the Islanders matched the Oilers' largest margin of victory this season. The one over the Coyotes matched a season-high for goals scored in a game.

"It's nice to be able to win a game in regulation," Stoll said. "There are only a couple of other games that I can remember - two against Anaheim - that we won convincingly. It's nice to be able to win by more than just one goal and not have to go into a shootout or overtime.

"You don't want to be giving teams points you don't have to and that's important because points are so important. It's good to win games in regulation, for sure."

Getting back to .500 would be big for the Oilers who have two home games left before embarking on a five-game road trip.

They've been clawing their way back to the break-even mark seemingly all season, but have not been able to move beyond it since winning the first two games of the year.

"You try not to think about it," Pisani said. "As long as we're playing well, then our record will take care of itself. If you focus on it too much, then it takes away from your game."


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