The Edmonton Oilers' fast start has been all but completely erased by a four-game losing streak. Opening a grueling seven-game road trip against the Nashville Predators - a team they haven't beaten in nearly three years - won't offer any easy solutions, either.
The struggling Oilers hope to rediscover their scoring touch and end a five-game skid in Nashville on Thursday night at Sommet Center.
Starting a season with four consecutive wins for the first time in 23 years was a very good sign for the Oilers, who hope to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. The scoring, however, has disappeared lately with Edmonton (4-3-1) getting shut out twice and totaling only four goals during its current 0-3-1 stretch.
A brilliant 35-save performance from Dwayne Roloson wasn't enough on Monday as Boston beat the Oilers 1-0 in overtime.
"It's always hard to take a loss," Roloson said. "It doesn't matter if that goal comes in overtime or on the first shift or the last shift of the game. It's always hard to lose a game. The parameters don't change. It's still frustrating."
All four of Edmonton's wins have been by one goal, a fact not lost on coach Craig MacTavish.
"We haven't, as a team, been able to dominate anybody. It's time for us to realize that," he said. "It was hidden in the record but that is over."
Thursday's game starts a trip that has the Oilers playing seven games in 12 days, capped by a contest against the New York Rangers on Nov. 10.
If overcoming a dormant offense doesn't present enough of a challenge, Edmonton also will be trying to end an eight-game losing streak against the Predators (4-4-1). The Oilers haven't beaten Nashville since March 5, 2006.
Ales Hemsky is the Oilers' leader with six points, but has yet to score a goal while offseason acquisition Erik Cole has no goals in his last five contests and only one this season.
MacTavish has a decision to make on his starting goaltender for Thursday. Mathieu Garon allowed six goals in his first three starts before giving up 10 in his last two games. Roloson, meanwhile, has stopped 66 of 70 shots in his two appearances.
Neither has had much success against Nashville (4-4-0). Roloson is 2-5-0 with one tie and a 2.64 goals-against average while Garon is 2-5-0 with a 4.20 GAA.
The Predators came to life after a slow start and salvaged a point from Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss at Washington. Jason Arnott scored twice and J.P. Dumont had three assists for Nashville, which was outshot 19-4 in the first period.
"Obviously we want to get the win," coach Barry Trotz said. "But we'll take the point after the start we had."
Scoring hasn't been a problem for the Predators, whose 32 goals are among the league's highest totals. While Nashville has scored at least three goals in eight straight games, it has also allowed at least three in the past six contests.
Dan Ellis has had a rough start to the season, going 4-4-1 with a 3.28 GAA, but is 4-0 with a 2.00 GAA in four career starts against the Oilers.
Arnott and Dumont have both been very productive versus Edmonton. Arnott has four goals and three assists in the last five games against his former team while Dumont has four goals and five assists in that span.
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