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Oilers say they're ignoring lengthy win streak as they prepare to potentially tie it in Vegas

Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid (Associated Press) Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid (Associated Press)
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Now that the National Hockey League all-star break is out of the way, the Edmonton Oilers' two biggest stars say they want to return to the task at hand: Winning as many games as they can in their quest to cement playoff positioning and not letting something like, say, tying a record NHL winning streak distract them.

"We're not talking about it in there," Connor McDavid, the star Oilers captain, said of his team's dressing room after practice Monday, two days removed from an all-star performance in Toronto. "For us, it's just about the day-to-day, staying focused on what's in front of us -- and what's in front of us is a very good Vegas team that's ahead of us in the standings, one that we'd like to catch."

The Oilers, winners of 16 games in a row before a nine-day break in game action around the all-star weekend, on Tuesday play the host Vegas Golden Knights, the reigning Stanley Cup champions who beat Edmonton in last year's playoffs and who sit five points ahead of them in the Pacific Division.

Edmonton's winning streak, which began with a victory over the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 21 and has seen them leapfrog seven conference rivals in the standings since then, sits one victory behind the all-time NHL record set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993.

Making up ground against Vegas, who have played five more games than the Oilers thus far in the 2023-24 season, is important when considering post-season implications, Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl told media.

"The margin for error is very slim in the playoffs," said Draisaitl, also back from Toronto's all-star event. "A lot of times, you get two teams having won three games, (going) down to Game 7 ... so being at home for that final game is big, of course, so it's definitely a goal of ours."

Playoffs, too, are the focus for Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, who has guided the team to a 26-6 record since replacing the fired Jay Woodcroft behind the bench on Nov. 12.

"We're going to try to win as many games as we can," Knoblauch said. "We don't want to push so hard that we waste all our energy chasing first place in our division — that would be great, and if that happens, that happens — but ultimately, we want to be getting better every day and put ourselves in position to have success in the playoffs. That's the ultimate goal."

Draisaitl said what's helped propel the Oilers over the streak has been staunch defensive play, led by goaltending that's given up a measely 24 goals over the 16-game heater.

"We're sticking to our system for 60 minutes," Draisaitl said. "Everyone does their job. I think we're very dialed in right now as to what your job is and what you're supposed to do in certain situations.

"We're just playing very good defence, and when we do give something up, our goalies have been outstanding for us, so it's a good combination."

Tuesday's showdown in Las Vegas is the start of a three-game road trip for the Oilers, who will also travel to California to face the Anaheim Ducks on Friday and the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday before returning to Edmonton for a home-ice date against the Detroit Red Wings. 

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