Finding form

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

They salvaged a win in Los Angeles and stole one in San Jose.

They cracked the 40-shot barrier for the second time this season in a loss to Florida, and played their best defensive game of the year against the Vancouver Canucks.

'FEELING BETTER'

Heading into tonight's encounter against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Edmonton Oilers have won four of their last five games and appear to be rounding into form.

"We're feeling better with where we're at than we have all year," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"One thing for sure is that you have to keep paying attention to all the little parts of your game. We're playing better than we have all year, we have a lot more guys on top of their game and we have a few more to come.

"But it's been a good little stretch for us, even our last two losses were pretty good games. So we're putting together a decent stretch."

The mood is lighter around the Oilers dressing room these days, having made it through a gruelling early schedule and now playing a majority of their games at Rexall Place.

The team looks primed to start making a move up the standings.

"It's still a work in progress," said Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray. "We don't think we're anywhere at the point we want to be at, especially through the first third of the season.

"But if we can play really well in the second third of the season, then we may make it easier for ourselves in the last third. Then maybe we can go into the playoffs not having to win 10 of our last 11 in order to get in."

At the start of the season, the Oilers were talking about possibly challenging for a Northwest Division title. But they've struggled to find consistency.

"We're playing some good games," said Souray. "We may have had a bad game against Florida, but that's the way hockey is. It's up and it's down. We just have to find the consistency in our game.

"So far it's been a rollercoaster. We've won some big games against good teams and then there are games we've lost where we shoot ourselves in the foot. It's almost like the games we've lost really deflate us. And if you look at the games where we've had success, it has been because we've had good starts, good energy and that's what we need to put results together."

MOST COMPLETE

Against the Canucks, the Oilers played arguably their most complete game of the season, despite struggling badly on the power play.

"We definitely cranked up the intensity in the last game," MacTavish said. "That normally manifests itself in a physical way. I was happy the way we responded. We all knew going in it was going to be a pretty physical game and the guys stepped up. It was a more emotional game than what we have played in the past, and that's the type of emotion and intensity that we need at home to have some success here."

In the Blackhawks, the Oilers are going up against a high-scoring team that boast plenty of skill in the form of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Brian Campbell.

The Hawks are currently chasing the Detroit Red Wings for the Central Division lead.

"They're a dynamic team, especially on the back end," MacTavish said.

"Their ability to move the puck is good. (Duncan) Keith is a guy I've liked for a long time and you add a guy like Campbell to that mix, they can really turn forecheck into offence real quick by moving the puck up quickly.

"They have a great record over the last number of games and they're really going to be a handful."


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