Are the Oilers running Cam Talbot into the ground?

These should be nervous times for the Edmonton Oilers.

The rival Calgary Flames have zoomed past them in the standings, thanks to nine wins in a row and a 14-2-1 record in their past 17 outings. Edmonton has also opened an eight-game home stand at 1-2-1.

Now a lingering question hangs over the team: Has the Oilers' coaching staff properly managed Cam Talbot's playing time?

No NHL goalie has made more starts (61), played more minutes (3,621), faced more shots (1,792) or made more saves (1,648) than Talbot this season.

Talbot has said he thrives on a heavy workload, and head coach Todd McLellan hasn't been concerned. He keeps asking Talbot if he wants to play and the goalie nods in the affirmative.

The Oilers face only two back-to-back situations over the final 14 games and four weeks of the regular season. They play on successive nights in Denver and Los Angeles next Wednesday and Thursday, and don't have another back-to-back until a final-weekend home-and-home with the Vancouver Canucks.

Rough outings

So expect the 29-year-old Talbot to continue to play. He has gone 33-20-8 and is only seven victories shy of matching Grant Fuhr's club record of 40 wins in 1987-88.

That season began early for Fuhr. He made nine starts to help Canada win the Canada Cup in September, then added 75 in the regular season and 19 more in the playoffs during the Oilers' march to the Stanley Cup championship.

But times, they are a-changin' in the NHL. Of last spring's final four goalies — Matt Murray (Pittsburgh), Martin Jones (San Jose), Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay) and Brian Elliott (St. Louis) — Jones was the only one who made more regular-season starts than Talbot already has at this point.

Jones started 65 games, followed by Bishop (60), Elliott (38) and Murray, who made 13 regular-season starts for Pittsburgh and 31 in the AHL.

Talbot has gone 2-4-1 in his last seven games. He played well enough in a shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last Friday and again against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, but he also has experienced some rough outings in the past two weeks. Adding to the problem has been the Oilers' lack of offence.

Overlooked teenager

Maybe this is nothing more than a blip in the schedule for Talbot. You almost hope so. It's easy to cheer for the likable netminder from Caledonia, Ont.

When he was a teenager there was little interest in him both at the major junior and United States college levels. But a league-MVP season with the 2006-07 Hamilton Red Wings in tier II was enough to earn him a scholarship at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Talbot continued to develop, but he wasn't performing in a hockey hotbed. However, his coach at Alabama-Huntsville, Danton Cole, had a connection. His former AHL teammate with the Moncton Hawks in the early 1990s, Larry Bernard, just happened to be a scout with the New York Rangers.

The Rangers signed Talbot as a free agent a few months before his 23rd birthday. He began his pro career with a brief stint in the ECHL, but he worked his way up to become Henrik Lundqvist's understudy for a couple of seasons in Manhattan.

The Oilers liked what they saw and acquired Talbot to solve their goaltending problems two years ago. But it wasn't until Edmonton dealt away Anders Nilsson to the St. Louis Blues before the 2016 trade deadline before Talbot became No. 1. He finished last season with a 9-5-1 run after Nilsson was moved.

Talbot then backstopped Canada to a world championship, tying a tournament record with four shutouts.

He has been one of the key players in Edmonton's resurgence this season, along with Connor McDavid, and Edmonton is destined to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

But how they perform in the post-season may be determined by how much Talbot has left in the tank.