Edmonton Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft considers the post-holiday break the “next phase” of the NHL season.
So far, so good.
The Oilers defeated host Calgary 2-1 Tuesday night to pull into a tie with Seattle for third place in the Pacific Division. Calgary then squeaked ahead in the three-team battle for third by beating the Kraken the following day.
Edmonton will have a chance to pull ahead of the Kraken — and the rival Flames — when it plays Friday night in Seattle.
“We’re like a lot of teams in the NHL right now. We’re looking for a measure of consistency,” Woodcroft said. “Our hope is that our focus is sharpened. We are post-Christmas now. We have 14 games left before the All-Star break. We’re quite aware of that. There’s a lot of divisional games left on that calendar.
“But you’ve heard me say since the first day that I got up here — that our focus is on being the best we can be on a day-in, day-out basis. We don’t worry about the 14 games in front of us. We worry about being the best we can be that day, and we were pretty good (Tuesday) and I’m happy that we got the result.”
Connor McDavid scored the winner against the Flames early in the third period to extend his points streak to 16 games (15 goals, 17 assists), one shy of his career-high set last season.
McDavid leads the league with 31 goals and 67 points this season.
“I’m always trying to play well, like everybody is,” McDavid said. “I’m no different than anybody else. I’m just trying to play well and do my part and that’s all.
“It always feels good to win in this building (the Saddledome). Our team historically has always struggled after breaks, so it’s important for us to get out of the break hot and it’s a big win for us.”
Goaltender Stuart Skinner also came up big for the Oilers, making 46 saves. The Oilers’ Tyson Barrie added his 100th career NHL goal.
“It’s a tough game after the break,” Barrie said. “Travel the day of and come into a tough building in a big game where we’re both battling for points. ‘Stuey’ was great. But it was gritty … (and) we found a way. Coming down the stretch here, we’re going to need to be able to play those low-scoring games and find a way to button it up.”
The Kraken have lost their last two, including a 3-2 decision to visiting Calgary on Wednesday that allowed the Flames to leapfrog them into third place in the division. Seattle has played four fewer games than Calgary and three fewer than Edmonton.
Goalie Philipp Grubauer made 41 saves for the Kraken, but it wasn’t enough.
“I thought the second half (of the game) we didn’t generate enough zone time,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “To be able to get in the zone and then be able to hold possession and do some work in the offensive zone and create some opportunities, we didn’t get enough of that in the second half.”
This will be the first of four meetings of the season between the Oilers and Kraken, with the second coming Tuesday night in Edmonton (after the Kraken host the New York Islanders on Sunday).
–Field Level Media