The Edmonton Oilers are struggling to score and will be without their marquee free-agent acquisition for a while.
With defenseman Sheldon Souray out for up to a month due to a separated shoulder, the Oilers will try to stop a four-game losing streak as they continue a three-game road trip on Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.
After failing to complete offseason deals with Michael Nylander and Thomas Vanek, Edmonton (2-4-0) signed Souray to a five-year, $27 million contract in July following a breakout season with Montreal. Souray led all defensemen with 26 goals, including an NHL-record 19 by a blueliner on the power play, and a career-high 38 assists. He's also had a history of nagging injuries since 2004.
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said Souray got hurt this time when he rolled on his shoulder during a fight with Vancouver's Byron Ritchie on Saturday in a 4-1 loss to the Canucks.
"I've been down this road before, and I don't think there's ever a good time to get hurt, but this really is not a good time," said Souray, who joins forwards Ethan Moreau (foot) and Fernando Pisani (ulcerative colitis) on the injured list.
Moreau is expected to miss another three weeks, while Pisani is sidelined indefinitely.
MacTavish said help could be coming on defense with Mathieu Roy close to returning from a concussion and Ladislav Smid possibly being recalled from the minors. Smid, acquired as part of the deal that sent Chris Pronger to Anaheim in July 2006, had 10 points and was a minus-16 in 77 games with Edmonton last season.
The Oilers have scored only five goals during their skid, and with key veterans out of the lineup, are being led by a pair of rookie centers. Andrew Cogliano has points in five games so far, and leads the team with five points on two goals and three assists, and Sam Gagner is second with four points but still is looking for his first NHL goal.
Cogliano was selected 25th overall in the 2005 NHL draft, while Gagner was taken with the sixth pick in 2007.
Phoenix (2-3-0) has lost three of its last four after a 3-2 home loss to Minnesota on Saturday. Daniel Carcillo scored both Coyotes' goals in a 2:17 span of the first period, but goaltender Alex Auld gave up a power-play goal and a short-handed one with less than seven minutes remaining.
"That was a heartbreaker to lose because we played well against a very good team," said Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. "It was a good effort, but we took three undisciplined penalties late, and two of those cost us the game."
Gretzky may go with Mikael Tellqvist in goal for this game. While with Toronto, Tellqvist stopped 36 shots and defeated the Oilers 3-2 on Jan. 7, 2006 in his lone career appearance against them. In seven career starts against Edmonton, Auld is 2-5-0 with a 4.05 GAA.
Shane Doan, the Coyotes' leading scorer each of the last four seasons, has a team-high four points - all assists - to tie newcomer Radim Vrbata for the team lead. Doan has failed to score a goal in his last six games against Edmonton, and has just three assists over that span.