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BLOG: Penalty kill perfection

The Oilers have been sent to the sin bin nine times over the last two games and allowed zero power-play goals against

by Ryan Frankson /

SAN JOSE, CA - The Edmonton Oilers have found the back of the net 10 times over the last two games.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have tallied five points apiece in those wins. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has four, Zack Kassian has three and the Swedish blueline duo of Oscar Klefbom and Joel Persson has combined for four assists.

The offensive numbers are impressive, and they're certainly a significant reason why the Oilers have rattled off back-to-back wins over New Jersey and Anaheim to further cement their spot atop the Pacific Division standings at 12-5-2.

However, the other major story arc in this tale of two victories has been the unsung heroes - the grinders, the role players, the shot blockers, the penalty killers… the guys whose names don't appear on the scoresheet nearly as often.

The Oilers have spotted their opponents nine power plays during the last two games, which they admit is not ideal. But how many goals have they allowed on those power plays? Absolutely none.

Much like it was at the start of the season when the Oilers were the early leaders in PK percentage, the team's defence while shorthanded of late has been impeccable. Their four-for-four performance against the Devils on Friday followed by their five-for-five effort last night in Anaheim has vaulted them back up to fifth in the NHL at 85.7%.

In the second period alone on Sunday, the Oilers spent eight of the 20 minutes on the PK and were successful on all four attempts. They also scored goals shortly after two of their successful kills to take a 4-1 lead into the final frame and ultimately win 6-2.

"We ran into some penalty trouble in the second," said Zack Kassian, who had a goal and two assists against the Ducks. "Those guys don't get enough credit. They were big for us, big momentum shift in the game. It could've went either way when we took three or four there in a row."

Those guys Kassian referred to include Kris Russell, who has played 9:16 of his 38:59 over the last two games on the PK and also took a vicious slapshot off the leg in the first period vs. Anaheim.

In classic Caroline cowboy fashion, the wounded defenceman left the ice on his own depleted strength, headed to the locker room for a quick examination and returned to action a few minutes later seemingly no worse for wear.

The unsung heroes also include the team's go-to penalty killers among the forward group, Josh Archibald and Riley Sheahan, who both returned to the lineup on Friday after recovering from minor injuries. It's no shock the Oilers haven't surrendered a PPG since that dynamic duo's triumphant return.

Fellow forwards Patrick Russell, Markus Granlund, Jujhar Khaira and Nugent-Hopkins have all logged significant shorthanded minutes in the aforementioned victories as well, while Draisaitl continues to chip in as needed for some important defensive zone faceoffs.

"We've needed that the last couple of games, we've taken too many penalties," Head Coach Dave Tippett said of his shorthanded squad clicking. "Our penalty killers did a great job."

Last but certainly not least, the backbone of the PK over the last two games has been Mikko Koskinen between the pipes, as the Finnish puck-stopper turned aside all eight opposing PP shots he faced and 60 of 62 shots overall.

The Oilers will close out their mini two-game California road trip on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks, who as of Monday ranked 13th in the NHL in power-play conversions at 21.3%.

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