Oilers-Avalanche Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 18, 2013
Having fallen to the brink of elimination, time is short for the reeling Edmonton Oilers and their odds of making the playoffs are quite long. The Oilers try to avoid a seventh consecutive loss on Friday night in Denver, where they play a Colorado Avalanche team already out of contention. After a promising five-game winning streak had it in the thick of the playoff race, Edmonton's postseason dreams have taken a near-fatal hit due to its season-high six-game skid. The Oilers (16-19-7) had been as high as seventh in the Western Conference on April 3. Now they must overcome a double-digit points deficit for the final playoff spot following a 5-3 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday. Making matters worse, Edmonton's final five games are against teams with winning records - including three versus Chicago and Anaheim, the top two teams in the West. ''We have six games remaining and we need to grab something positive from what is left here and be a team that shows character in this challenge," coach Ralph Krueger said. "We will work hard to make these games valuable.'' Krueger's club will have to work harder on the offensive end after getting outscored 22-7 during its skid. It's the franchise's longest losing streak since dropping 11 straight from March 8-31, 2011. "I've been here three years and I'm tired of this," forward Taylor Hall said. "We've got to start winning games just to get a better mood in here." Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hope they've snapped out of their recent drought. They combined for three assists on Tuesday after failing to record a point in their previous five games. Hall, who ranks among the league leaders with 30 assists, has seven in four games against the Avalanche. Jordan Eberle hasn't earned a point in six games, but has five goals and eight points in his last eight in this series. The Oilers, who have outscored Colorado 15-8 in winning three of the four meetings, are 7 for 17 with a man advantage against the Avalanche. Edmonton, though, has gone 2 for 18 on the power play during its skid, and Colorado has killed 15 of 16 penalties its last five games. While they've been playing better since goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere blasted the team's effort last week, the Avalanche were eliminated from postseason contention for a third straight season in a 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus on Monday. "We're a young team and need to learn how to win some games," Giguere said. "For me, why not start now? At least you have something to work on.'' Giguere has given the conference-worst Avalanche (14-22-7) a lift since Semyon Varlamov went down with a hip injury. He's gone 2-0-2 with a 2.40 goals-against average in his last four games. Varlamov has been activated and could start on Friday, but he's 1-3-0 with a 3.28 GAA against the Oilers. Jamie McGinn, who scored against the Blue Jackets, has made a difference offensively in this series with two goals and four assists. Cody McLeod will try to stay hot for the Avalanche, having scored three goals in his last two games overall. Colorado could get another look at goalie Devan Dubnyk, who has a 3.36 GAA in losing his last four starts. Dubnyk, however, is 4-2-0 with a 1.51 GAA in six career starts in Denver. The Avalanche have won three of the last four meetings at the Pepsi Center.
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