A pair of playoff races are on the table when the Edmonton Oilers host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
The Oilers have won four of their past six games but have struggled to string more than two consecutive victories since a six-game winning streak from Jan. 11 to Jan. 21. They’ve gone 9-5-5 in that stretch.
Edmonton heads into the tilt off a 7-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in their most recent outing on Saturday — a setback that came after two straight wins.
“Obviously you want to win every night, and losses, they always sting,” forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said after the game. “So we need to get back on the horse here and have a couple of games at home, but I think we can still take a lot of positives from this road trip.”
While they held the first wild card from the Western Conference entering Monday’s NHL action, they could wake up Tuesday in the second spot. The Colorado Avalanche, in the second wild card, are two points behind the Oilers with three games in hand and play the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
The Oilers have allowed at least five goals in seven of their past eight losses (including overtime and shootouts) and at least six in five of those contests.
“You want to find that consistency of playing hockey and not giving up six goals, when you went into Boston and only gave up two,” forward Evander Kane said Saturday.
After a five-game winning streak from Feb. 25 to March 4 propelled the Senators into the thick of the wild-card race in the Eastern Conference, the gained ground has hit a snag of late. Ottawa has lost four of its past five. They’ve been outscored 10-3 in their past two outings, a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and a 5-1 setback to the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
The Senators sit six points behind the New York Islanders, who hold the second wild card, with two games in hand.
“We’re going to have to find our game in a hurry,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said following the loss to Calgary. “But I’ve got all the trust in the world in the leadership of these guys. When the chips are down, they’ll be ready.”
A struggling power play hasn’t helped the Senators’ recent woes. They’ve scored just four goals on 41 opportunities over their past 11 games, connecting a shade under 10 percent. They’ve also given up short-handed goals in consecutive games and seven of the 10 short-handed tallies allowed have happened since the All-Star break.
“Those are the guys that have carried us all year,” Smith said. “The power play has won us so many games and these are the guys, this is the motor of our team, the pulse. Right now, it’s easy to point fingers. They’re trying. It’s just squeezing (the stick). We need one to go in. Before this is over, they’re going to win us games again.”
Edmonton won the first meeting between the two, skating away with a 6-3 victory on Feb. 11 in Ottawa.
–Field Level Media