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(notes), 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.”
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.
“It is noticeable how hard our defensemen play,” Dubnyk said.
That’s even been true on the offensive end lately, as defensemen Cam Barker(notes) and Andy Sutton(notes) each scored their first goals of the season against the Avalanche. Defenseman Corey Potter(notes) 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.
“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(notes) stopped 15 of 17 shots for the Blues on Friday. He is 3-1-0 with a 1.48 GAA and a shutout while making four straight starts in place of an ineffective Jaroslav Halak(notes), who posted a 4.18 GAA in losing his last three outings.
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.
The Oilers, 5-1-1 at home, open a six-game road swing after hosting the finale of the Blues’ four-game trip.