SUN Hockey Pool

Keepin' it light and loose

DEREK VAN DIEST, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers were in good spirits yesterday, despite having to brave the cold and practise away from Rexall Place.

A five-game winning streak has a tendency to put everyone in a cheery mood.

With their next four games at home, the Oilers have an excellent opportunity to build on the momentum of an outstanding road trip.

"It has to be a focus for us," said centre Sam Gagner, who cracked up onlookers by pretending to fight linemate Dustin Penner at the River Cree Resort and Casino arena.

"To win five in a row is a pretty good feeling, but obviously, with the position we're in, we can't really rest on our laurels at this point.

"We have to continue to push forward and the first game of the homestand is going to be a big one for us. But we're looking forward to the challenge and hopefully we'll get off to a good start."

The Oilers open the homestand against the upstart Los Angeles Kings tomorrow night.

HOTTEST

The Kings head into the game as one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference, with a four-game winning streak going into tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.

After the Kings, the Oilers will host the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues.

Having found the formula for success on the road, the Oilers will be looking to transfer that to home ice, where they've posted an 8-5-2 record so far this season.

"We don't have what you would call a road game except for the mentality of being positionally better defensively," said head coach Pat Quinn.

"But we're working on that because it's something that we needed to get better at if we wanted to win any games, road or home.

"So, we're going to continue to do that. Our success will come as we improve in our defensive zone.

"We've made some steps there and we want to continue that."

In their five road wins, the Oilers gave up an average of two goals per game. They also showed plenty of resiliency, overcoming deficits in four of those games.

They battled back from 3-0 down in their win over the Blues on Friday in the final game of the trip.

"I think that's just a belief in themselves; that doesn't come just because you talk about it ... you have to work on it," said Quinn.

"That's winning the little battles. I think earlier on, when adversity struck and we had some sick guys, it was easy for us to feel like 'What's the use?' and complain that we weren't getting any breaks.

"But if you can get by on that sort of stuff, because none of it matters at the end of the day, you still have to do your job and still have to work."

The Oilers were able to out-work their opponents and made the most of their opportunities during their record-breaking streak.

Their top line of Gagner, Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule have also found great chemistry together.

That trio was the main reason the Oilers were able to pull out the victory in St. Louis.

"We're feeling good, we're trying to always be around the puck and support each other," Gagner said.

SUPPORT

"With the size and strength of Pens, you have to support him and you have to be around him.

"He's a great guy to play with, because he just opens up so much room. For me and Bru, it's just a matter of continuing to try to get into those open spaces and try to feed off each other."

The 10 points earned on the road has put the Oilers back within reach of the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.

They are currently four points back of the Dallas Stars, who occupy that position.

"We're a team that has been able to continue to battle back in games and I think that speaks to the attitude in the room," Gagner said.

"I think we need to continue to have that same attitude and that same drive and we should be successful."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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