Taylor Hall and the Edmonton Oilers have enjoyed getting off to fast starts in the last two games of their season-high four-game win streak.
Hall and the Oilers look to do the same Wednesday night when they open a four-game trip in the finale of a home-and-home set with the woeful Calgary Flames.
Edmonton (15-13-7) is enjoying its longest win streak since a six-game run Oct. 22-Nov. 3, 2011, as it continues to battle for a playoff spot. The Oilers built a four-goal lead after one period in Saturday's 4-0 victory over Vancouver and went up 3-0 after 20 minutes Monday in a 4-1 win over Calgary (13-17-4).
"We had an optimal start again," coach Ralph Krueger said. "When you take advantage of early opportunities, you put yourself in the driver's seat."
Hall set a franchise record with the fastest hat trick to start a game at 7:53 against the Canucks and added a goal and an assist within the first 9:55 versus the Flames before helping the Oilers close out strong both times.
"When we're up against teams, we have to kind of put the nail in the coffin there and make sure that we finish games out," said Hall, who has 10 points in a five-game run. "We played really well in the last two periods against Vancouver, I think it carried over. Hopefully tonight will do the same for the next game."
The Flames are back home, where they have won eight of nine overall and 11 of 12 against their provincial rivals.
However, the effect of losing key players seems to be taking its toll, with defenseman Jay Bouwmeester the latest to be shipped out. Bouwmeester was traded to St. Louis shortly before Monday's contest, and Calgary's all-time leading goal scorer Jarome Iginla was sent to Pittsburgh on Thursday.
"It's a little different in the locker room right now, but we've already had the two trades I guess and we're just trying to focus on what we have to do (Wednesday) but it's definitely a hard time," defenseman Dennis Wideman said.
Coach Bob Hartley said he would decide Wednesday morning who will start in goal. Miikka Kiprusoff was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots Monday with Joey MacDonald stopping 13 of 14.
A return home should benefit Curtis Glencross and Michael Cammalleri, who have scored 20 of their combined 25 goals at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames, though, know their home-ice advantage won't be what it would be if they were in contention.
"We're sellers, we're trying to improve the team for the years coming and it's certainly not a position you want to be in this time of year," left wing Alex Tanguay said.
Krueger gave his team Tuesday off ahead of this trip that features four games in six days, with contests Thursday night against the Canucks and Saturday afternoon against the Kings.
"The three in four especially with the travel back-to-back, Calgary and Vancouver and then down to LA, we're pre-planning energy gathering here," Krueger said.
Justin Schultz had a goal and two assists Monday, and Nail Yakupov and Ryan Jones added one of each.
The Associated Press News Service
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