Hurricanes-Oilers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 07, 2011
Despite their recent struggles, the Edmonton Oilers can still salvage a respectable record on their longest homestand of the season. Some rest combined with a visit from the last-place Carolina Hurricanes should provide them a good opportunity to begin doing that. The Oilers go for just their second win in six games Wednesday night in their only meeting of the season with the Hurricanes. Edmonton (13-11-3) is 4-8-1 after winning seven of its previous eight, and a cluttered schedule hasn't helped. The Oilers went 2-3-1 in a nine-day stretch that concluded with Saturday's 5-3 loss to Calgary. They surrendered three unanswered goals in the third period to fall to 1-2-1 on their six-game homestand that ends against Colorado on Friday. Edmonton is now coming off its longest layoff in three weeks. "We need to get back to playing with good habits, which always starts in practice," defenseman Ladislav Smid told the team's official website. "In the last couple weeks, we haven't had the time to practice since the schedule has been really busy." Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to be the Oilers' top offensive threat, scoring two goals with three assists in his last five games. Nugent-Hopkins is the league's rookie scoring leader with 12 goals and 29 points, including 14 points on the power play to rank third among all NHL players. Left wing Ryan Smyth is tied with Nugent-Hopkins for the team lead in goals and is second with 26 points, but he's failed to score a goal in his last five games, matching his longest drought of the season. Nikolai Khabibulin is having his own troubles, going 2-6-1 with a 3.12 goals-against average since starting the season 7-0-2 with a 0.98 GAA and two shutouts. He lasted just 7:19 into Edmonton's last meeting with Carolina (8-17-4) on Nov. 9, 2010, giving up four goals on eight shots as the Oilers were routed 7-1. Edmonton has won the last two matchups with the Hurricanes at Rexall Place, most recently a 4-2 victory Feb. 1, 2010. While the Oilers are enduring their own tough stretch, the Hurricanes are in the midst of a losing streak that reached seven following Tuesday's 7-6 defeat at Calgary to open a four-game trip. "We're going through a part of the schedule right now where it seems like every little miscue we make, comes right back to haunt us," said coach Kirk Muller, who has lost all four games since taking over for the fired Paul Maurice last week. "We scored six, which shows the guys didn't quit, they pushed each other. If we keep doing that, we'll finally get out of this thing." Eric Staal has been a recent bright spot, getting three goals and four assists in his last five games - one goal and two assists shy of his totals from the first 24 contests of the season. The center had four assists against the Oilers last season, and has eight points in his last four matchups with Edmonton. Fellow center Jeff Skinner leads the Hurricanes with 11 goals and 23 points, but has just one goal in his last seven road games - six of them Carolina losses. Skinner had one goal and two assists against the Oilers last season.
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