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Knoblauch preaches defence as Oilers prepare to battle Blues on Wednesday night

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The Edmonton Oilers beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Monday night, and head coach Kris Knoblauch has suggested a number of things he saw in his team’s performance will help the team as the NHL playoff race heats up.

“I think we managed the puck well,” Knoblauch told reporters after the Oilers practised at Rogers Place on Tuesday. “I thought our defence did a really good job denying the blue line — we created a lot of turnovers at the blue line.

“We weren’t spread out. Wherever the puck was, we had five guys around it, which helps defend.”

Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch speaks to reporters in Edmonton on Feb. 27, 2024. Global News

While the Oilers’ win against a divisional opponent comes in handy as teams jockey for playoff positions, Knoblauch downplayed how big the victory was, though he acknowledged the Kings are “a very good defensive team.”

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“It’s another win,” he said.

“Yes, they are right behind us in the standings, but there’s still a lot of hockey left to play.”

The Oilers are preparing to host the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place on Wednesday night, a tilt that will be the last of five straight games at home. The last time the two teams faced one another was in St. Louis, and the Blues won 6-3.

After the Oilers’ remarkable 16-game winning streak came to an end earlier this month, the club has sought to find a way to win more consistently again. Over the last 10 games, the Oilers have a record of 5-4-1.

“It’s pretty black and white when we keep the puck out of the net,” Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl said Tuesday. “(If we do that), we’re really hard to beat … not opening it up too early even if we’re down a goal or two.

“We’ve seen it a lot this year that if we stick to it and grind through ups and downs … we’ll be all right.”

“I thought that was a good step,” Knoblauch said of the win over the Kings. “Right now, the focus is on getting a little bit better defensively.”

Draisaitl noted that the game against the Kings saw the entire team play a role in earning the victory, something that will help the club as it marches toward the post-season.

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“You can’t win in this league with two lines and four defencemen,” he said. “We need everybody. That was a great indicator last night of how we need to play every night.

Oilers forward Mattias Janmark also voiced the need for the Oilers to “get back to a certain way of playing.”

“It was a good game for us to find that game again, but now it’s all about doing it again and again,” he said.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid continues to look to end a goal drought. The centre has not scored in 10 games now, however, he has been credited with a staggering number of assists — colloquially called “apples” by players — in that span: 23.

“He’s the human apple tree right now,” Draisaitl said with a laugh. “That’s just the way it goes sometimes with offensive guys. One year you score more, the next year you set up more.

“Making plays and setting your teammates up is just as important as putting the puck in the net, if not more important.”

Draisaitl described McDavid’s passing ability as “elite.”

“Always has been.”

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The Oilers face off against the Blues at 6:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday. You can listen to the game live on 630 CHED.

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