EDMONTON, Alberta — Maybe, just maybe, the Edmonton Oilers are turning the corner.
The Oilers spent most of the first two months of the season wearing the title of NHL’s most disappointing team. They were a club that was a preseason co-favorite for the Stanley Cup but couldn’t put two good games in a row through October and November, falling to second from the bottom in the Western Conference.
However, the Oilers (13-16-2) return home from a three-game road trip to face the Nashville Predators on Thursday in the midst of their best stretch of the season.
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In wins at Montreal on Saturday and at Columbus on Tuesday, the Oilers chased two of the NHL’s best goalies — Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky. Edmonton lost 1-0 Sunday in Toronto but hit the iron four times and outshot the Maple Leafs 41-23.
“It’s coming together for us a little more offensively,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “The power play woke up on this trip. Obviously, we didn’t get one in Toronto, but I thought we were dangerous there. Lines seem to be clicking a little bit more. I think we’re prepared to shoot and grind it out.
“It’s just a mindset, and maybe it’s our time right now. You go through dry spells and sometimes you score a lot. And right now, we’re finding the net.”
Connor McDavid, the reigning NHL scoring champion who has been hampered by illness for much of December, collected four points Tuesday in a 7-2 win over the Blue Jackets. With 39 points in 31 games, he has jumped into third place in the league scoring charts.
The three-game streak of solid games for Edmonton happened on the road. The Predators will take solace in the fact that the Oilers’ 5-9-0 home record is the third worst in the NHL. On home ice, the Oilers’ penalty kill rate is an almost unbelievably bad 59.5 percent.
Veteran Mike Cammalleri, who was traded to the Oilers by the Los Angeles Kings earlier this season, talked about the team’s inconsistent home/road performances before the club left on its trip.
“As of late, I haven’t been here that long, I’ve liked the way we’ve come out on the road. There’s been a sense of urgency in our game. We seem to lack that in this building,” Cammalleri said. “I think that awareness should help us moving forward. As players, we’ve got to take it upon ourselves personally to address that in the dressing room: mindset, preparation and to see what you can do to be most ready to start the game.”
His words only gained weight when the Oilers went on the road and then played arguably their best string of games so far this season.
Unlike Edmonton, the Predators are not disappointing anyone this season.
The reigning Western Conference champs are 19-7-4, and they are coming into Edmonton on a high following a 7-1 triumph at Vancouver on Wednesday night. Nashville is on a 9-1-2 run in its past 12 games.
Forwards Ryan Johansen and Scott Hartnell both came off injured reserve to play in the win over the Canucks. Johansen got two points in his return.
With the big win, Predators coach Peter Laviolette was able to roll his lines, which sets up his team for the game in Edmonton the next night.
“Especially in a back-to-back situation, you like a game like that where you can roll the bench a little bit and try to control the minutes,” Laviolette said. “Sometimes they get a little out of hand and you have to go play the next night. It sets up where the guys were in control of the minutes tonight.”
Defenseman P.K. Subban, who had two seeing-eye goals on Wednesday, praised his team for the seven-goal outburst.
“We’re the type of team that, when we attack, we’re really tough to defend against,” Subban said.
McLellan said Wednesday that defenseman Adam Larsson, who has been out since Nov. 30, has been upgraded to day-to-day. Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, who was placed on injured reserve at the end of November, is back on the ice for practices but isn’t quite ready to play.