A pair of superb performances by a rookie goaltender got Edmonton back on track during its longest road trip of the season. As the Oilers return home, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers seems likely to be back in net as his team tries for its third straight win.
Edmonton, which has played an NHL-high 12 road games, begins a brief two-game homestand as it faces the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Consecutive losses last week dropped the Oilers to 2-3-0 on their season-high seven-game trip, but Edmonton (8-6-1) finished the stretch up strong with victories over New Jersey and the New York Rangers. The two straight wins over Atlantic Division contenders were due in large part to Drouin-Deslauriers.
The 24-year-old rookie was outstanding in both contests, making 37 saves in a 2-1 win over the Devils on Sunday and 40 stops to defeat the Rangers 3-2 in a shootout the next day. Drouin-Deslauriers faced 20 shots in the second period of each game and rose to the challenge, turning aside 39 of those 40 total shots.
"Knowing they were the best team in the East was a very good challenge for me," Drouin-Deslauriers, who was making his second and third career starts, said after the victory over New York. "We replied with a good answer and very good energy."
Drouin-Deslauriers made the most of his opportunity in the Oilers' 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday, when he replaced struggling veteran Mathieu Garon to start the third period and stopped all 14 shots he faced. That effort earned him the starts in New Jersey and New York.
Edmonton was on the road for two weeks, but won't be home long before heading out again. After hosting Toronto (6-6-4) and Colorado, the Oilers play six of nine away from Rexall Place.
Edmonton doesn't play three straight home games this season until Dec. 11-16, a stretch the Oilers should be looking forward to. Despite playing only three times at Rexall, Edmonton has gained points in each game, going 2-0-1.
"Two games over .500 isn't exceptional by any standard, but when you've played 12 of 15 on the road, we'll take it," coach Craig MacTavish said.
MacTavish's team has played five consecutive one-goal games.
The Oilers will be facing a Maple Leafs club that lost for the fourth time in five games Tuesday, 4-3 at Calgary. The Leafs got goals from Nik Andropov and Matt Stajan in the third period - Stajan's coming with 54 seconds remaining - to cut the deficit to one, but the Flames held on.
The Leafs' Alexei Ponikarovsky opened the scoring at 9:20 of the first before the Flames took control with four straight goals.
"In the second, we couldn't get out of their zone, we had long shifts and we started to get a little tired and had no legs and we came up a little short at the end of the game," defenseman Tomas Kaberle said. "We have to make sure, when we get the lead to play a little bit better defensively and play in their zone instead of our zone."
Toronto had won four of five before this 1-3-1 stretch.
Although the Leafs are struggling, they've taken four of the last five matchups with the Oilers and two in a row. Toronto won 4-3 at home in the most recent meeting Feb. 17.