Oilers having fun ahead of clash with Canucks (Dec 31, 2016)

BY AP • December 31, 2016

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Over their last five games on both sides of the Christmas break, the Edmonton Oilers have secured nine of a possible 10 points.

And, they're enjoying their hockey. When the Vancouver Canucks visit Rogers Place on Saturday, they'll face a team that's loose, with players who have smiles on their faces.

"A big part of this game is having fun, and we're doing that right now," said Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson. "That comes with winning. It's nice to see that the team's really come together and, especially, kept the ball rolling after our good run before Christmas. It's a fun time to be at the rink. This is a position we haven't been in for many years."

"This is the fun time of year, when games start meaning a lot more," said Oilers veteran winger Milan Lucic, who won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan said the addition of vets like Lucic and Patrick Maroon, who came to the team from winning organizations, have really helped in calming the team when it comes to playing big divisional games. They've helped the surprising Oilers climb to second spot in the Pacific Division.

"We have some older players on our team now, that have been in some stressful or important situations throughout their careers and they can keep it calm."

But one of those vets won't be on the ice Saturday; McLellan confirmed Friday that defenseman Andrej Sekera will miss his second consecutive game due to illness. Matthew Benning took Sekera's spot in Thursday's 3-1 win over Los Angeles, and bagged an assist.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are looking for some consistency in their game. Vancouver started the season with a four-game win streak; since then, the best the Canucks have done has been stringing two wins together. If the Canucks are to claw back into the Western Conference playoff race, the team knows that a hot streak is needed.

Vancouver is four points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

And the Canucks are on a two-game win streak at the moment, after beating Anaheim 3-2 in overtime Thursday night, thanks to a Henrik Sedin goal. So, the question: Can Vancouver hit the three-in-a-row mark for the first time since October?

"We need to string wins together, and actually do it. We've been saying that for a while," said Canucks center Bo Horvat before the win over Anaheim.

"We've come from behind for a few wins and there's a never-give-up attitude in this room," said Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton, who had an assist Thursday. "We're fired up."

The Oilers announced Thursday that they had signed Edmonton native Matthew Benson to a three-year, entry-level contract. Benson has 40 points in 31 games for Vancouver of the Western Hockey League this season, and was the Oilers second-round pick in the 2016 draft.

And the Oilers called up defenseman Jordan Oesterle from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif. Going the other way was defenseman Mark Fayne.



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