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Oilers aim to keep rolling against Flames

by Davis Harper /

OILERS (15-13-7) at FLAMES (13-17-4)


Last 10: Edmonton 6-2-2; Calgary 4-6-0

Season series: This is the third of four meetings, with the home team winning each of the first two encounters. On Monday, Edmonton used three first-period goals to take the first half of the current home-and-home series, 4-1.

Big story: Edmonton is chasing its first postseason appearance since 2005-06, and will look to secure another valuable two points Wednesday against the rebuilding Flames. The Oilers – winners of four straight – are even on points with the Columbus Blue Jackets and just a point behind the eighth-place St. Louis Blues.

Team scope:

Oilers: As recently as March 8, when the Oilers lost their fifth game in a row, Edmonton looked as if it would be hamstrung by the same inconsistency and youth that has plagued it in recent seasons. But as March progressed, so did the Oilers. Since that loss to the Predators, the Oilers have gone 7-2-2 to propel them into the thick of the crowded Western Conference postseason race. Most recently, four straight wins in which Edmonton has outscored opponents 17-5, including two shutouts, has shown that the Oilers can be prolific offensively without sacrificing the defensive principles necessary to reach the postseason.

All that progression was on display Monday, when Edmonton scored three times on their first six shots and Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves for the 4-1 win. Still, many Oilers weren’t happy that they took their foot off the gas after a fast start.

"I thought it was good that we didn't feel good about the way we played all the way through the game today," coach Ralph Krueger said. "It's a sign of the maturity of the group. The wins and losses are critical right now, but how we play and maintain this run is important. We feel confident right now and just want to keep nudging as a group."

Flames: Just as their provincial rivals are looking toward the playoffs, Calgary appears to be taking a broader view of things. The Flames’ playoff aspirations are fading fast – despite sitting just eight points below the final playoff position, five teams are jostling between them and a berth – and Calgary has gone 2-6-0 over its past eight games. In addition, the Flames have dealt two key players, captain Jarome Iginla and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, over the past week, as general manager Jay Feaster appears prepared to shake up the status quo.

Against Edmonton, Miikka Kiprusoff was pulled after conceding three goals on six shots and Brian McGratten scored his team’s only goal with a minute and a half to play.

"We gave them some odd-man rushes, and if you get caught standing around, you are going to pay," Matt Stajan said. "They caught us napping for those first two goals and we were chasing them for the rest of the night."

Who’s hot: Taylor Hall netted a natural hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, then bagged another goal and an assist against Calgary. Hall has six goals and four assists over his past five games. … The Flames have won 11 of 12 against the Oilers at Scotiabank Saddledome, and carry a season mark of 10-6-2 in Calgary.

Injury report: Eric Belanger (groin) is day-to-day for the Oilers, while Andy Sutton (knee) is out indefinitely. … Calgary’s Paul Byron is out indefinitely with a hand injury.

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