Oilers look for back-to-back wins

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:41 PM ET

They can’t start a streak without winning the first one.

Unfortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, that’s where it usually comes to an end.

The club has not won consecutive games since early December, when it strung four victories together, taking all three games through a swing of Eastern Canada then beating the St. Louis Blues at home.

Since then, the wins have been few and far between. And they’ve always come in singles.

“We almost have to overcome ourselves in order to win successively,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “We have to make sure that our priority (Thursday) is to play a complete game.

“We were good (Tuesday), but we weren’t good early. Our goaltender had to make some big saves early, where if they score, it’s a different ball game.”

The Oilers snapped a three-game losing skid with a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. It was only the second win in the club’s previous nine games.

For goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, the victory snapped a personal 14-game losing skid, dating back to mid-December.

The Oilers will try to make it two straight when they host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

“Montreal can come at you in waves,” said Renney. “They’re quick and they can counterattack with the best of them. We have to make sure we give them very little to start with. The game again will have to be played in five-minute increments.”

The victory against the Stars went a long way to repairing some of the damage done by the two lacklustre efforts posted on the weekend.

The Oilers looked tired and disinterested in losses to the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks.

They were challenged by Steve Tambellini in a meeting on Monday and responded to their general manager’s message of forgetting about the organization looking for a high draft pick and simply play to win.

“There is a couple of times this year that we’ve been challenged and we responded well to it,” said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff. “I had full confidence that we were going to be able to do it again (Tuesday). It was a big game for us to come out in front of our fans and show them that there is a lot of fight and a lot of pride in here.

“They weren’t happy with the effort we put forth on the weekend, and shouldn’t be. We weren’t happy with it, either. It was nice to turn that around, but one thing we haven’t been able to do is build on it, become consistent and try to throw together some stretches where we can play that way every night. That’s going to be our next goal.”

Prior to running off the four straight in December, the Oilers had not won consecutive games since opening the season with two victories.

During Wednesday’s practice the message was clear — the coaching staff does not want their club to rest on their laurels.

“The coaches put us through a pretty good skate today and I think it was their way of saying, ‘Let’s continue this, let’s take the next step forward in our progression here,’ ” said Horcoff. “I feel like we’re ready for it.”

Following their game against the Canadiens, the Oilers will close out their homestand Saturday afternoon against the Atlanta Thrashers.

They’re hoping to be able to generate some momentum before heading out on the road for a pair of games next week.

“We can’t be a one-off team,” said Renney. “I think to a point we’ve been successful at that, and even though we lost successive games, we haven’t packed it in. The big thing for us is to make sure that we really show up against Montreal.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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