After squandering a chance to create some separation in the tightly packed Northwest Division, the Edmonton Oilers hope to create some momentum on a two-game, pre-Christmas road trip beginning Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Oilers (17-14-2) are one point out of first place in the Northwest, but also one point out of last. They were swept in a home-and-home series by division rival Colorado, and follow up this game with a contest Saturday at Dallas that will be their last before the Christmas break.
Tuesday's 7-6 loss was Edmonton's fourth in its last five games, a slump that has further exposed a woeful power-play unit. The Oilers are 0-for-21 with the man advantage in the last five games, but also 2-for-42 in their last 11 games since scoring two power-play goals in a 5-1 win over Chicago on Nov. 24.
Edmonton's usually dependable penalty killing also failed Tuesday, yielding a season-high three goals in seven opportunities. It was just the third time all season the Oilers allowed more than one power-play goal in a game, and they have conceded just 17 in all this season.
"When you score that many goals you want to have a better result," Oilers captain Jason Smith said. "We didn't execute on our power play or on the penalty kill like we needed to."
Petr Sykora scored two goals in the loss, ending a personal 10-game drought. He has 14 goals overall in 2006-07, but only four in 15 road games and none in his last nine away from Rexall Place.
The Coyotes (12-19-1) are 1-1 on their current four-game homestand and have been idle since a 6-3 loss to Calgary on Saturday. Poor goaltending and bad penalty killing doomed Phoenix to its fourth loss in five games as Mikael Tellqvist allowed five goals on 30 shots, and the Coyotes conceded three power-play goals in seven chances.
Starting netminder Curtis Joseph, who has been sidelined since leaving a Dec. 12 game with a strained groin, is listed as day-to-day. With 435 career wins, he is two shy of matching Jacques Plante for fifth on the all-time list.
Ladislav Nagy, who had 56 points in 51 games in an injury-shortened 2005-06 season, ended a seven-game goal-scoring drought with a second-period tally Saturday. The 27-year-old left wing has yet to score goals in consecutive games this season but does have a team-high 24 points.
The home team has won both games thus far in the season series, with Phoenix routing Edmonton 6-2 on Oct. 26 as six different players netted a goal. Former Oiler Mike Comrie had three assists as the Coyotes recorded their first regulation win over the Oilers since Jan. 24, 2003.
Edmonton is 7-1-2 with one tie in its last 11 games overall against Phoenix.