If the Edmonton Oilers want to climb into playoff contention, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall will have to find their scoring touch on the road.
The Oilers will play seven straight games away from Rexall Place after Christmas as the venue will be home to a number of games in this year's world junior hockey championship.
Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Hall have certainly been productive for the Oilers (15-16-3), combining for 92 points. But they've registered just 30 points on the road.
“We've just got to focus on playing good hockey and keeping the positivity in here,” said Eberle, who had two goals in Edmonton's 4-1 win over Minnesota on Thursday to snap a four-game losing streak.
“It's about keeping confident. I think as the season wears on, that even keel is one thing you have to maintain. You have to stay positive so that when things are tough like they have been, you don't jump ship and just throw everything out the window.”
Eberle is Edmonton's scoring leader with 36 points but has registered just 12 points in 16 road games.
Nugent-Hopkins, 18, is second with 34 points and is the NHL's top-scoring rookie but has registered 25 points at home. Hall struggled away from Rexall Place early in the season but has been more productive of late, with seven points in his last five road games.
“Definitely at the start of the year we had some troubles with that,” Hall said. “More recently, we've adjusted a bit.
“You have to play a little simpler on the road, wait for your chances and, when you get them, pounce on them.”
Coach Tom Renney has been able to create the matchups he wants with the final line change at home. But that's much more difficult on the road, where his young line has yet to find a way to break loose.
Among the Oilers top four scorers, only veteran Ryan Smyth — who has accumulated 17 of his 28 points on the road — has bucked that trend.
“You can't control who you play against on the road, so you just have to focus on your own game and play as well as you can,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We're trying.”
The Oilers, 5-10-1 on the road, begin their longest stretch of the season away from home in Vancouver on Boxing Day. They'll make a quick stop back in Edmonton, then face Minnesota, the New York Islanders, Chicago, Buffalo, St. Louis and Dallas.
They don't play at home again until Jan. 11, when they host the New Jersey Devils.
If there's an edge to be exploited, it might be on the power play. Edmonton is ranked second in the NHL at home but a dismal 21st on the road.
“With the matchups, it is tougher to play on the road,” Eberle said. “One big thing on the road is your power play has to be big.
“We've definitely had a lot of success on the power play at home, but it hasn't been as good on the road as at home. That's definitely one way to get some offensive production.”
The Oilers have lost four straight on the road and have been outscored 15-6 over that span. They'll require much most consistent production to stay within striking distance of eighth spot as they head into the second half of the NHL season.
At least Edmonton heads on the road on a winning note. The Oilers played well in a 3-2 home loss to Detroit on Monday and a 3-2 defeat in San Jose the game before, but earned no points from either contest.
“The whole season goes in ups and downs,” Hall said. “You have to take them in stride and realize we have a lot of games left to play. We control our own fate.
“You have to outplay the other team, you have to outwork the other team.”
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