CALGARY, AB - What was once an area in need of improvement has quickly become a position of strength, as the Oilers have been able to find the even-strength offence they were looking for earlier in the season.
The Oilers have tallied 15 even-strength goals in their last five games - averaging three per outing - which is a stark contrast to the 1.83 even-strength strikes per game they averaged over the first 41 matches of the year.
"It's one of the parts that we wanted to improve in the second half of the season," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said Friday following an optional skate at Scotiabank Saddledome.
"The 5-on-5 play, we wanted to clean it up coming out of the break. We tweaked a couple of things and found some more balance in our lines upfront. It's certainly an onus that we put on our group both offensively and defensively to be better at 5-on-5. The trip's gone alright that way so far."
Video: OILERS TODAY | Getting Even 01.10.20
Riley Sheahan's even-strength marker against Montreal on Thursday got the Oilers on the board and Alex Chiasson's game-winner also came at 5-on-5. For the players, it's been as simple as adhering to the fine details of the game, owning areas of the ice and communicating on the bench.
"We're doing a good job in those hard areas of the ice," Sheahan, who has five goals on the season, said.
"Maybe you don't notice it on TV but it just creates a lot more opportunity for us offensively. When we can be sound in our Dzone, turn the puck over and have possession of it and go the other way, that helps us a lot."
On Sheahan's marker versus the Habs, Joakim Nygard put forth a strong effort along the boards. The Swede engaged in a puck battle, got knocked down to his knees, got up, won possession and poked a pass to a wide-open Sheahan, who went shelf on goaltender Carey Price.
Video: RAW | Sheahan
Sheahan couldn't help but appreciate Nygard's relentlessness on the play.
"It's unbelievable," Sheahan started. "One, he gets in there on the puck and two, when he's not the first one in there, he's quick to get in there for the second effort to pick up on those loose pucks and create possession for us.
"Arch (Josh Archibald) and Ny do a great job of getting in on the forecheck and skating. It's been able to create some opportunities for us."
Coach Tippett and the Oilers hope that 5-on-5 strength can continue Saturday when Edmonton appears in the second Battle of Alberta of the year.