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Oilers search for prior form in showdown vs. Flames

Feb 23, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) carries the puck around Minnesota Wild defensemen Declan Chisholm (47) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The 16-game winning streak that ended last month is old news for the Edmonton Oilers, especially with how they have performed since returning from the All-Star break.

The Oilers, who will host the Calgary Flames on Saturday in the next instalment of the Battle of Alberta, are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday. Edmonton owns a 4-4-1 record following the break and since their franchise-record run from Dec. 21-Jan. 27.

Still, the Oilers insist they are not panicking, nor worried about some old habits creeping into their game, harkening back to their early-season struggles.

“You look at the expected wins, many of those games we should have won,” Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch said. “I’m not concerned, at all.”

Concerned may be a strong word, but some of the causes of those middling results should be upgrading the level of attention. For starters, the Oilers did not surrender three goals in a game once in January. Since the calendar flipped, they have allowed at least three goals in all nine outings.

Moreover, the Oilers have relied too much on their ability to win games with a less-than-60-minute effort. For example, they were outplayed in the opening period against the Wild before finding their form, and they lost despite outshooting Minnesota 24-7 in the third period.

Edmonton captain Connor McDavid, who has collected no goals but 16 assists in a six-game point streak, called their sub-standard portions of the game “lulls” and admitted it’s an issue that must be addressed.

“Those can’t happen,” McDavid said. “If you want to be a good team, you’ve got to play all three periods, and we haven’t done that in a bit here.”

The Flames head north riding a two-game winning streak that has kept them in the playoff mix. Calgary, which has won six of nine games, is three points behind the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators, who are tied for the Western Conference’s second wild-card playoff position.

The Flames not only have that spot in mind, but also some retribution, since the Oilers have won the past four meetings, including a pair already this season.

“If you want to get into the playoffs and you want to go on a run in the playoffs, it’s a team you’re most likely going to face at some point,” Flames forward Blake Coleman said of the Oilers. “It’s time for us to start winning games in this rivalry. … We’ve got to find ways to beat this team.”

With less than two weeks remaining before the March 8 trade deadline, the Flames are well aware a few key players could be dealt away, notably pending unrestricted free-agent defensemen Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin. In addition, No. 1 goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who has two more seasons on his contract and a no-movement clause, has been the subject of plenty of trade rumors.

Despite all that, the Flames prepare to face their rivals on the heels of victories over two of the league’s top teams, the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins. They beat the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins 3-2 in overtime on Thursday to end a 2-2-0 homestand.

“I think we’ve played structured the last two games,” defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. “It’s more of the Calgary Flames identity the last two games. It helps a lot coming off two big wins, and we’ve got to keep that same mentality going forward.”

–Field Level Media

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