Posted October 29, 2011 on
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St. Louis Blues
The Edmonton Oilers are atop the Northwest Division thanks to their strong defense.
That defense also is starting to make plays in the offensive zone.
The surprising Oilers look to win five straight for the first time in nearly two years Sunday night when they host the St. Louis Blues.
Edmonton (6-2-2), which finished with an NHL-worst 62 points last season, extended its winning streak with a 3-1 victory over Colorado on Friday. Its next win will be No. 7 - a total the team didn't reach last season until Nov. 29, its 23rd game.
"We're happy, we're excited," said Devan Dubnyk, who had 40 saves Friday in his first start since Oct. 18. "We feel good with each other and the way we're playing, but nobody's getting too excited or too crazy about it. We're approaching it professionally."
The Oilers, whose last division title came 25 years ago, are seeking their first five-game winning streak since Dec. 3-11, 2009, and it seems likely Nikolai Khabibulin will be back in goal.
Khabibulin has started three games of the winning streak while posting a 1.00 goals-against average, actually slightly increasing his league-best season mark to 0.97.
The Oilers have allowed a league-low 14 goals and lead the NHL with 128 blocked shots, including a team-high 38 by Ladislav Smid.
"It is noticeable how hard our defensemen play," Dubnyk said.
That's even been true on the offensive end lately, as defensemen Cam Barker and Andy Sutton each scored their first goals of the season against the Avalanche. Defenseman Corey Potter has a goal and three assists during the win streak.
"We've been talking about getting our defensemen involved, and the teams that do that have a tendency to generate a little bit more offense," coach Tom Renney said.
The Blues (5-5-0) are coming off Friday's 3-1 loss to Calgary, snapping a three-game winning streak.
Alex Steen scored his team-leading sixth goal, but St. Louis went scoreless in three power-play chances and is 1 for 28 over the last eight games.
"When it's going like it is, the power play just has to continue to work and has to continue to find ways to be a little sharper and more determined," coach Davis Payne said.
It could be difficult to get on track against Edmonton, which has killed 27 of its opponents' 28 power plays in the last seven games.
The Oilers haven't had much luck against St. Louis lately, however. They were outscored 14-3 in losing the final three meetings last season and have lost six of seven to the Blues, getting held to nine goals.
Khabibulin, though, is 5-1-2 with a 2.58 GAA in his last eight starts against St. Louis.
Brian Elliott made his fourth straight start in goal for the Blues on Friday, stopping 15 of 17 shots. He is 3-1-0 with a 1.48 GAA and a shutout since taking over for an ineffective Jaroslav Halak, who posted a 4.18 GAA in losing his last three starts.
Elliott went 2-3-0 with a 3.73 GAA against Edmonton last season while playing for Ottawa and Colorado. Halak is 2-0-1 with a 1.94 GAA lifetime against the Oilers.
St. Louis' Matt D'Agostini and Chris Stewart each had three goals against Edmonton last season.
The Oilers, 5-1-1 at home, open a six-game road swing after hosting the finale of the Blues' four-game trip.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Has there been a more surprising resurgence in the NHL this season than that of Nikolai Khabibulin?
Last year saw the Edmonton Oilers goaltender playing in the shadow of his DUI charges from Feb. 2010, for which he'd eventually spend 15 days in an Arizona detention facility. He played 47 games for the Oilers in 2010-11, going 10-32-4 with an .890 save percentage in an injury...
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No. 1 Star: Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton Oilers
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from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, The trick for an NHL team to win many games before Halloween is to be treated to strong performances by the club’s masked men.
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Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk...
After two straight seasons of last-place finishes, the Edmonton Oilers want to prove they are a team on the rise.
Sending the soaring Washington Capitals to their first loss of the season will certainly help their cause.
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''It was a good...
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Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist and Nikolai Khabibulin made 34 saves and the Edmonton Oilers handed the Washington Capitals their first loss of the season, 2-1 on Thursday night.
Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist, while Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 34 shots to help the Oilers end the perfect start to Washington's season.
The Oilers got powerplay goals from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, then held on behin...
Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist and Nikolai Khabibulin made 34 saves and the Edmonton Oilers handed the Washington Capitals their first loss of the season, 2-1 on Thursday night. Taylor Hall also scored for the Oilers, who have won three in a row. Karl Alzner scored for the Capitals, who lost for the first time this season after a 7-0 start.
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