Flames-Oilers Preview

The Associated Press

Coach Dallas Eakins feels the Western Conference-worst Edmonton Oilers are improving mentally.

They're certainly improving in the win column, and another meeting with the Calgary Flames could keep that going.

Taylor Hall looks to build on his latest hat trick and help the Oilers continue their recent surge by getting another win over their bitter provincial rival on Saturday night.

Edmonton (10-18-2) is two points behind Calgary (10-14-4) and seems capable of closing that gap after winning six of nine games while averaging 3.7 goals. That stretch started with a 4-2 victory at Calgary on Nov. 16, when Edmonton did all of its scoring in the third period after falling behind by two for its fifth win in seven meetings.

The Oilers' latest offensive performance was their best of the season. They scored five unanswered goals while cruising to Thursday's 8-2 win over Colorado.

Eakins felt the recent improvement was coming, and he may be particularly relieved after he was being heavily criticized for Edmonton's struggles.

"Over the last few weeks, our group has taken a step in mental toughness," Eakins said. "I didn't see a win of that score coming, though. I definitely thought we'd be in a tight game."

Hall will try to make a difference again. The left wing scored his fourth career hat trick Thursday, while adding an assist to help the Oilers split the first two of a five-game homestand.

"It's always a fun night when you get a hat trick, but for us to win in the fashion that we did gives us some confidence," Hall said. "This homestand could prove to be big for us.

"I haven't been in this league long, but I've been in it enough to know that anything can happen on any night against any team. You have to be ready for the opportunity. You just have to come out and play your game."

Hall seems to enjoy being at Rexall Place, totaling nine points during a five-game scoring streak. However, he has just two points in six games there against the Flames compared to 10 points over his past four visits to Calgary.

Jordan Eberle, the team leader with 25 points, has 13 in eight games versus the Flames after scoring a goal in the most recent matchup last month.

Calgary is looking to rebound from Friday's 3-2 home loss to the Avalanche. The Flames relinquished the lead on defensive breakdowns, giving up two goals in 54 seconds late in the second period.

"It's a disappointing loss," captain Mark Giordano said. "We weren't moving like we were in the first and they capitalized on some breakdowns. We've got to find a way not to give up those close goals."

Production from Michael Cammalleri could help. The center leads the Flames with 10 goals, but he has just one over the past seven games.

Cammalleri hasn't found the net in 10 straight meetings with the Oilers - four at Edmonton.

Ladislav Smid is making his first appearance at Rexall Place since being traded to the Flames last month. The defenseman has one assist in 11 games with Calgary after spending his first seven-plus seasons with the Oilers.

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