The Nashville Predators aren't that far out of the Western Conference playoff picture, but they need to start moving in the right direction.
A matchup with the road-weary Edmonton Oilers could help.
Nashville will try to avoid a season-high fourth straight defeat on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena in the first of three meetings between these clubs over the next 18 days.
Currently 11th in the West - two points in front of Edmonton (8-10-5) - the Predators (9-9-5) are just five points back of the third spot with 25 games left.
"That's not really dire yet," coach Barry Trotz said after Thursday's practice. "The dire truth is there are 12 teams that are all around you.'
The Predators can keep an eye on the standings as they reach the half-point of this shortened-season, but the focus should be on fixing an offense that's last in the league with 45 goals and 23.9 shots per game.
Nashville tallied one goal each night during a three-game California trip that ended with Monday's 5-1 loss to Los Angeles.
"We got to find something,' said captain Shea Weber, who has no goals in the last six games after netting one in three straight.
The Predators added Bobby Butler off waivers from New Jersey on Monday and Zach Boychuk from Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Defenseman Victor Bartley was called up from AHL Milwaukee on Wednesday.
"Some guys have let their game slip,' said Trotz, whose team has dropped seven of 10. "(Butler and Boychuk are) here for competition, and they're looking to stay in the National Hockey League so they're focused on trying to make it.'
The Predators need to concentrate on improving a power play that is 1 for 14 over the last six games.
Nashville has also killed just eight of 17 penalties over the last five.
The Oilers are 0 for 7 with the man advantage during a four-game slide. They had no power plays and were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday, falling 3-0 to Detroit.
"You're not going to win games scoring zero goals so that's on us," Taylor Hall told the team's official Twitter account after the Oilers fell to 1-3-2 on a franchise-record nine-game trip.
There could be even more pressure on Hall and the team's forwards if Ales Hemsky can't go. Hemsky, the team leader with eight goals, took a puck off the side of his foot in the second period on Thursday and needed to go to the dressing room. X-rays did not reveal a break.
"We have to ice it through the night and treat it and we hope that there's a shot still but it's going to be difficult for him in Nashville," coach Ralph Krueger told the Oilers' official website.
Hemsky led Edmonton with four goals and six assists as it won three of four over the Predators last season, including both in Nashville.
Devan Dubnyk turned aside 71 of 76 shots in those two victories, but he's surrendered 22 goals while posting a 1-4-1 mark in his last seven starts.
Predators netminder Pekka Rinne, a loser of three consecutive starts, gave up six goals on just 20 shots in Edmonton's two visits last season. He was pulled both times.
Nashville's last four-game skid was an 0-3-1 stretch that ended with a 2-1 victory over the Oilers on Nov. 28, 2011.
The Associated Press News Service
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