Three times already this season the Edmonton Oilers have won to avoid a sixth straight loss.
Those victories, however, didn't come against teams at the level of the St. Louis Blues.
Western Conference-worst Edmonton tries to avoid a season-high sixth consecutive defeat Saturday night against a Blues team that's dominated the series.
Hoping to take another step forward after showing some improvement last season, the Oilers (11-23-3) instead have been plagued by the league's worst defense and are in danger of missing the playoffs for an eighth straight season.
While there's still more than a half a season remaining, Edmonton already finds itself 20 points behind the final playoff spot in the very competitive West.
Although the Oilers have allowed an NHL-worst 127 goals, it's the offense lately that's been the bigger problem. They've scored six goals during a five-game skid - the last four on the road - and one-third of that production came in Thursday's 4-2 loss to Colorado.
"It'll be nice to get home, get some rest and get fired up for Saturday," leading scorer Taylor Hall told the team's official website. "It wasn't how we wanted this road trip to go by any means. It's nice to just go home, regroup a little bit and make sure we finish off our last two games before the Christmas break good."
The Oilers snapped their first five-game skid Oct. 19 with a 3-1 win in Ottawa and did so again Nov. 5 with a 4-3 victory at Florida. They followed that win with another five-game slide which ended Nov. 16 against Calgary.
Each of those opponents would be left out of the playoffs if the season ended today, but not St. Louis (23-7-4), which is challenging for the Central Division lead.
A big reason for the Blues' success is the career season Alex Steen is putting together. He scored two more goals in a 5-1 win over Montreal on Thursday, the same day he signed a three-year, $17.4 million contract that will keep him with the team through 2016-17.
Steen is second in the league with a career high-tying 24 goals.
St. Louis avoided its first three-game skid and improved to 4-1-1 in its last six.
"We played a solid game throughout the whole 60 minutes,' Steen said. 'We came out with a lot of jump. I felt like we dictated from the early going.'
Jaroslav Halak was sharp with 25 saves after posting a 4.78 goals-against average in his previous three starts. He's 7-1-1 with a 1.76 GAA in 10 appearances against the Oilers.
On the opposite end is Edmonton's Devan Dubnyk, who is 0-7-0 with a 4.72 GAA lifetime against the Blues.
The Oilers snapped a five-game losing streak in this series with a 3-0 victory March 26. St. Louis is 11-2-1 in the last 14 meetings, including a 5-1-1 mark at Rexall Place.
This will be the first game for Oilers forward David Perron against his former team. Perron, who has a team-high 14 goals, spent six seasons with the Blues before being traded to Edmonton in July.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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