Oilers spoiling to be spoilers

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 PM ET

Looking back at the road trip, the Edmonton Oilers were upbeat.

In a season where it matters more how they play the game, the club was happy they were able to put together four solid periods of hockey in hostile environments as they return home to host the St. Louis Blues on Friday.

Granted they did once again leave Minnesota with their tails between their legs, having dropped their 15th consecutive game at the Xcel Energy Center. But unlike previous defeats on the road to the Wild, the Oilers had been able to frustrate their opponents for two periods before the wheels fell off in the third.

“I felt bad for the guys (Tuesday), but we brought it upon ourselves with our third period being what it was, quite honestly,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “We needed this win (Wednesday). Even though we started the game slow, we were able to get good goaltending until we found our legs.

“The guys have stuck with it. This is not easy. I think everybody on the planet understands our situation and it’s not a real fun place to be. But they do come to work, they do care about that logo on the front and that’s pretty important to us.”

The Oilers managed to bounce back from the disappointment in Minnesota with another two strong periods in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.

After goaltender Devan Dubnyk helped get the team through a lacklustre first, the Oilers were able to get into the game and exploited some questionable goaltending on the part of the newly acquired Brian Elliott, who was booed off the ice at the conclusion of the contest.

The victory gave the Oilers four wins in their last five games, signifying one of their best stretches of play this season.

“I thought it was a good road trip for us, we were able to carry some momentum from the games at home,” said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff. “Minnesota is a tough building to play in and we played 40 good minutes there before we kind of came unglued. That’s going to be a good lesson for us.”

Heading into the final stretch of the season, it’s no secret the Oilers are playing for next year. With the playoffs out of reach, the club is limited to a spoiler role coming up against teams that are in desperate need of points.

Such wasn’t the case in Colorado, as the Avalanche are also focusing on the future.

Yet in the victory, the Oilers felt they did well sticking to their system and not letting the game turn into a high-profile, overpriced pond-hockey contest.

“A lot of times when you play teams like this that don’t really care too much, you’re going to get a lot of odd-man rushes, because they’re just going to say ‘We’ll give you yours and we’ll take ours back’ sort of thing,” said Horcoff. “You don’t see that too much any more, run-and-gun games are few and far between. Everyone is focused on defence and good habits. We’re no different. They’re struggling now and we needed a game like that, we want to finish the season off strong.

“Any momentum you can get going into the summer is always big. You feel better about yourself going in to next year and you really feel like you’re ready to take the next step.”

For the time being, the Oilers are going to try and bleed out as many lessons as they can from their remaining games this season.

“We have to play the spoiler and we have to try to get ourselves in situations in games where we can learn from,” Horcoff said. “We need to get into tough situations like having a one-goal lead in the third period or games where we’re down and we really have to press and really focus on our system and try to get that down going forward to next year.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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