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Fourth best banner?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- If somebody told you the Oilers were fourth best in the NHL at something, admit it, your first reaction would be something along the lines of: "Fourth best at what, fishing the puck out of their net?"

Fourth best at making the coach want to pull his hair out? Making other teams feel good about their own uniforms? Hanging cheesy attendance banners?

But for all that's gone wrong for Edmonton this season, their penalty killing remains some of the best in the NHL.

Fourth overall going into tonight's game in Vancouver.

On a team that ranks 25th in power play, 26th in goals for, 22nd in goals against and 25th in the overall standings, fourth best in anything is worth toasting.

If you're looking to hang a tacky banner at Rexall Place, "Fourth Best PK" trumps "100 Sellouts" any day of the year.

"It's something that we do take pride in," said Marty Reasoner, one of the regulars on Edmonton's PK units. "At the end of the night you don't have anything to show for it as far as personal stats go, but at least you can take solace in the fact you worked hard and you didn't give them anything on the power play.

"And if you look at it, it does make a difference in a lot of games."

It did Thursday night in San Jose, when the Oilers snuffed out 9:57 of Sharks power play time, including a pair of five on threes and one brief, game saving six-on-three.

In Edmonton's last five games, they've killed 30 of 31 penalties. It might not be a coincidence that they've won four of those five games.

"It's hard work," said Jarret Stoll. "Penalty kill is a lot of stops and starts, thinking, good sticks, blocking shots, winning faceoffs and goaltending.

"It doesn't show on the scoresheet, but it's there as a team stat. We take pride in it and we want to get better."

Operating at a stifling 85.4%, just a hair behind league-leading Dallas at 87.2, the Oilers credit experience and selflessness for their ability to shut down opposition power plays like Smokey stamps out forest fires.

"We have a pretty good system and we have guys who've played together for a while," said Reasoner. "In penalty killing you have to read off guys a lot, depend on them and know where they're going to be. We've kind of been together for a while so we know what we're going to do."

That said, you can't go on giving the other guys a half dozen power play chances a game and expect to win. In their last six games they've been shorthanded 7, 6, 9, 4, 4, and 8 times.

The Oilers don't normally take a lot of penalties against Vancouver - just 15 over five games this year. They've killed 13. Vancouver's power play ranks 11th in the NHL.


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