Oilers work on penalty kill while preparing for Jets

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Edmonton Oilers spent all of their practice day Saturday working on one thing.

Killing penalties.

The team’s inability to effectively kill off penalties is probably the biggest reason the Oilers are 17-18-3 and out of the playoff positions in the Western Conference.

The Oilers have a league-worst 72.7 percent penalty kill. At home, the Oilers “effectiveness” at killing penalties is just 57.4 percent.

The Winnipeg Jets will look to take advantage of the Oilers’ weakness when they visit Edmonton on New Year’s Eve. The Jets have won both of the teams’ previous meetings this season, including a 4-3 victory on Dec. 27 in Winnipeg.

Edmonton just needs to look at how effective Chicago was on the power play. The Blackhawks came into Edmonton and beat the Oilers 4-3 in overtime on Friday night, scoring two goals with the man advantage.

The Oilers worked on tweaking their PK system as they prepped to face Winnipeg.

“It’s something we need to work on,” center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “And, when you change things up, I think today was a good day for just going over it and any questions, they’re answered. So just kind of took us through it slow, and then game speed at the end.

“We know what to do, but it’s always good to go back over it and make sure everybody’s sharp. Same thing there: No questions unanswered.”

Center Mark Letestu said that, despite recent losses to Chicago and Winnipeg, the big picture is that the Oilers have got points in five of their last six games. The team is still making up ground in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.

“We’re playing better. There’s no reason but to be confident right now,” Letestu said. “I think you have to kind of take a big picture look at it and be positive. There’s a lot of hockey left and we can’t get down on ourselves. We can’t let frustration creep in and hopefully have a better mood going into the next game.”

The Jets come into Edmonton on a two-game win streak despite being decimated by injuries.

Defensemen Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien were skating at practice in non-contact jerseys. Neither will be ready to play in Edmonton.

Mark Scheifele, second on the team with 38 points, is out six to eight weeks with an upper-body injury suffered when he crashed into the boards during the Dec. 27 win over the Oilers.

And left winger Brandon Tanev suffered a lower-body injury in Friday’s win over the New York Islanders and was placed on injured reserve.

The Jets called up forward Jack Roslovic from their AHL farm team, the Manitoba Moose, to take Tanev’s vacated roster spot.

“It’s inevitable,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “It happens to every team We’ve been pretty good at handling a couple of longer term ones. We’ve been pretty fortunate, so we won’t complain.”

Roslovic, a product of Miami (Ohio) University, said, “It’s good to get the call. Every day in the NHL is a good day, so I’m just excited. … It’s just come up here, play in a game and work hard every day in practice. The time will come.”