They're winning, but not there yet

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:21 PM ET

The law of averages dictates the pattern can't continue.

The Edmonton Oilers can't persist in getting badly out-shot, keep benefiting from suspect goaltending and carry on pulling out unlikely victories. That's hardly the recipe for success in the National Hockey League.

Yet despite having won three of their last four games, the Oilers are not under any illusions about the way they're playing.

"Obviously we're not playing the way we want to right now, we're starting slow and our system play needs work," said Oilers winger Dustin Penner following a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Friday. "But on a positive note, when we're getting chances we're burying them, we're playing pretty good defence and Khabby (goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin) is playing great and giving us a chance to win."

Against the Wild, the Oilers were outshot 31-19, yet were never really in danger of losing.

They scored on three of their seven shots in the second period, and when the Wild did make a game of it in the third, managed to beat goaltender Josh Harding on two of their eight shots in the final frame.

In the end the score was flattering, just like it was in Nashville when they were out-shot 41-20, or against Montreal, which finished with a 35-19 advantage on the shot clock.

Even the loss in Chicago was masked by great goaltending as they were peppered by the Blackhawks.

"There are some areas that we need to clean up that's obvious and we realize that," said Oilers forward Patrick O'Sullivan. "But it's seven games in, we're learning, we're trying to change some things, we're trying to change some bad habits that we had last year.

"I think we're taking steps in the right direction. I think we're definitely a better team than we were at the end of last year. We have to continue to improve."

There are plenty of areas where the Oilers need to improve. Head coach Pat Quinn was quick to point out the deficiencies in his team's game during his post-game press conference on Friday.

He's been around long enough to know that if you walk down a railway track, eventually you're bound to be met by an oncoming train.

"The nights that we haven't got the results that we wanted, we've beaten ourselves and even (Friday) we gave them a chance to get back in the game, just by covering off poorly around our net," Quinn said.

"But we did have some guys that had some good performances. We caught a team that's on a long road trip, we needed to win the game and we found a way to do that. We'll work on that other stuff. Sometimes when you win the game, it's easier to bring that to the next practice to keep moving towards things that we have to do better."

The Oilers took the day off yesterday and will be back on the ice today in preparation for their game against the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow.

They'll need to do a better job limiting the number of shots they give up to the Canucks in order to pull out a victory.

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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