Lurking just outside the Western Conference playoff picture, the Colorado Avalanche seem to be in a pattern of taking two steps forward followed by one step back.
They haven't been able to sustain much consistency against the Edmonton Oilers, either.
Trying to regroup from a disappointing loss, Colorado looks to resume its postseason push Saturday against the Oilers as the Northwest Division rivals conclude their season series at the Pepsi Center.
The Avalanche (35-30-4), who won four straight Feb. 22-27 only to suffer back-to-back defeats, got off track again Thursday with a 4-2 loss at Nashville. Two nights after defeating Minnesota 7-1 to complete a home-and-home sweep of the Wild, Colorado had difficulty getting things going versus the Predators.
Despite taking an early 1-0 lead on recently acquired Jamie McGinn's fourth goal in three games, Joe Sacco's team was outshot 31-17 and failed to create a power-play opportunity for the fifth time this season. The Avalanche entered this season having only gone without a power-play chance twice since relocating to Colorado in 1995-96.
"In a game like this, that had such meaning, I didn't think we had enough guys giving a full 60 minutes, and that's not acceptable," Sacco said. "We got off to a good start, but then they pushed back and we didn't have an answer for it. It's a game we're disappointed with."
The Avalanche have also experienced mixed results versus the Oilers (26-35-6), dropping three of five matchups this season. The teams split two meetings in Colorado before Edmonton took two of three on its own ice.
The Avalanche have gone 11-11-1 in this series since the start of 2008-09.
Edmonton has lost four of five games overall after allowing three third-period goals in Thursday's 5-3 defeat to Montreal.
"We were a little undisciplined," said coach Tom Renney, whose team was playing its third game in four days. "We could have been a lot smarter.
As tough as it was from a fatigue perspective, you have to play smart. Had we done that, certainly we had a shot at this game ... I think we could have had it had we played a smarter game."
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 26 of 30 shots, falling to 1-11-2 with a 3.75 goals-against average over his last 15 starts. Khabibulin is 3-4-1 with a 3.49 GAA in his last eight trips to Colorado.
Given his recent struggles, Khabibulin could give way to Devan Dubnyk in this one. Dubnyk is 4-2-0 with a 2.18 GAA in his last six games and 3-1-0 with a 1.75 GAA in four lifetime road games at Colorado.
Colorado's Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves Thursday, surrendering more than two goals for the first time in seven games. He's gone 5-2-0 with a 1.15 GAA and two shutouts over that stretch.
Varlamov had dropped three of four versus Edmonton before turning away 26 shots in a 3-1 road win Feb. 17.
Though the Oilers' 10 road wins rank as the third-fewest in the league, they've certainly held their own as the visiting team of late. Edmonton has scored a combined 19 goals in taking four of five in opposing arenas.
The Oilers won't have to worry about slowing down Colorado center Matt Duchene, who is expected to miss at least three weeks with an ankle injury suffered Tuesday. Duchene had tallied 17 points in his last 13 games in this series.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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