EDMONTON - The trip was supposed to be educational for the Edmonton Oilers.
Heading into it, they had talked a good game, claiming the playoffs were a possibility this season, even though they were looking up at the rest of the teams in their conference.
And while the two games in San Jose and Los Angeles did not help them get closer to their eventual goal, it did give them a sense of purpose, knowing they could compete with the some of top teams in the West.
"These were two some of the better teams in the league and we not only competed with them, but I though we out-played them in some parts," said Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle. "I think we can definitely build off that.
"Against Los Angeles we'll take the point, even though we would have liked to have two. It was a pretty hard-fought game, we couldn't put much more effort into it. It was tough not getting the extra point, but I think this will help us move forward as a team."
The Oilers were a shootout goal away from coming away with the win in Los Angeles. They had plenty of opportunities, as Taylor Hall, Linus Omark, Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner all had chances to score the deciding shootout goal, but could not beat Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Had they been able to pull it out, it would have been the Oilers sixth consecutive shootout win over the Kings in Los Angeles.
"For the most part, I thought it was a really good game by us," said Hall. "I'm still kicking myself for missing that shootout. I had a chance to bury it there and I didn't put it in, and that's something I have to do.
"We liked how we played, even though one point out of a possible four isn't the greatest. However, I did think we played very well (in Los Angeles) and it was good to come out of there with something. It is good to go into a little break feeling good about our game and these two games are the way we have to play going into the rest of our season, which will put us in a position to play some meaningful games at the end of the year."
Against the Sharks, the Oilers did well to keep last year's Western Conference finalist quiet for most of the contest.
They limited the Sharks to just five shots in the first period, then conceded a pair of goals in the second en route to a 2-1 loss. One of the goals was scored off an ill-advised turnover in the neutral zone and the other came on the power play.
Two nights later in Los Angeles, the Oilers put in another strong defensive effort and actually took a 2-1 lead in the third period, only to forfeit it quickly then fall in a shootout with former Oilers centre Jarret Stoll scoring the winner.
"Defensively we're playing better," said Eberle. "We're not giving as many shots up. I think our penalty killing is getting a lot better. I think that's key for us, you can't give teams like San Jose chances on the power play because they're going to bury you. I thought we played a smart game against them and Los Angeles and we have to continue that."
Heading into Vancouver on Sunday, the Oilers are looking to maintain their level of play. Eventually, however, they're going to have to start coming up with results in order to challenge for a playoff spot.
"We can't go into rinks thinking we just deserve it," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "We played well in these two games and we certainly should have got points out of the two games and we didn't, that's the way it goes. What we have to do now is understand that this is what it takes to compete in the NHL against the premier teams in the league. We have to do the same thing again against Vancouver and beyond that if we're going to close the gap."