Nassau Coliseum isn't usually thought of as a difficult arena for opposing teams. Just don't tell that to the Edmonton Oilers.
Losers in four straight and at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Oilers look to notch their first road win against the New York Islanders in almost 14 years Thursday night.
After three consecutive last-place finishes in the Northwest Division, the Oilers (1-5-1) were expected to take a step forward this season behind the maturation of overall No. 1 picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.
Instead, their only victory in six games came in a shootout against winless New Jersey on Oct. 7 and they have allowed a league-worst 32 goals.
"It's such a fine line between winning and losing in this league," forward Jordan Eberle told the team's official website. "We're not playing bad by any means. We're doing a lot of good things but we just can't get over that line of winning games and I think once we find that way to do that, we have confidence in here that we'll start winning more."
While Hall is tied for the team lead with six points and Nugent-Hopkins has three in five games, Yakupov - the top pick in the 2012 draft - has yet to record a point. He returned to the lineup Tuesday after being a healthy scratch the previous two games.
Edmonton dropped to 0-3-1 on a six-game trip with that 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh. Ales Hemsky and Eberle scored second-period goals before Evgeni Malkin netted the winner in the third.
"We've got to find ways to win games, that's the bottom line," said Jason LaBarbera, who made 25 saves. "Every one of us needs to step it up a bit more and find a way to win."
The trip doesn't get any easier for the Oilers, who have dropped six straight on Long Island since a 4-2 win Dec. 14, 1999. Edmonton has been outscored 22-9 in those losses and will try to beat an Islanders team that is 6-0-3 on home ice in the regular season dating to 2012-13.
That run continued Tuesday with a 4-3 shootout loss to Buffalo, but it was a disappointing result for the Islanders (2-2-2) after they allowed the tying goal with 2:01 left in regulation to a team that entered without a win.
"It is a tough way to lose," said Matt Martin, who scored his first of the season. "We had a lot of opportunities to put them away early but we didn't do it."
Frans Nielsen and Matt Moulson also had goals for New York, which recorded a season-high 44 shots after totaling 35 in the previous two games combined.
Captain John Tavares had an assist to extend his point streak to five games. He had a goal and an assist in the most recent matchup with the Oilers, a 4-1 victory Dec. 31, 2011.
Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves in that game and is 6-1-0 with a 2.12 goals-against average in his last seven meetings with Edmonton.
Devan Dubnyk figured to be the Oilers' No. 1 goaltender this season, but he's lost all four of his starts with a 5.43 GAA. He surrendered four goals on 29 shots in that December 2011 loss to the Islanders.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved