While the Colorado Avalanche have nearly played their way into playoff position with their latest surge, the Edmonton Oilers have been eliminated from postseason contention with the longest losing streak in franchise history.
The Avalanche look to continue their pursuit of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference when they play the slumping Oilers on Friday for the second time in three days.
Colorado (38-29-6) defeated Edmonton 5-1 on Wednesday to win its fourth straight and hand the Oilers a franchise-record 12th consecutive loss.
Edmonton (30-37-7) has not won since beating Detroit 4-3 in a shootout on Feb. 23, and is closing on the team-record 14-game winless streak set from Oct. 11-Nov. 7, 1993. Just last season, the Oilers played in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, but they were officially eliminated from this year's playoffs on Tuesday with Calgary's 2-1 victory over the Red Wings.
While Edmonton is in a tailspin, the Avalanche are 9-0-1 since Feb. 27 to jump back into playoff contention.
Colorado has outscored opponents 38-20 in those 10 games, and has matched a season high with a power-play goal in the last five contests.
"We have a lot of momentum right now and a lot of confidence," Avs coach Joel Quenneville said. "We feel good about ourselves and are doing a good job keeping in that must win mode."
Colorado, which hasn't missed the postseason since 1993-94 when it was the Quebec Nordiques, was 12 points out of the final playoff spot Feb. 26 but is now putting the pressure on eighth-place Calgary. The final postseason berth in the West will likely not be decided until the final week of the season, when the Avalanche and Flames meet twice.
"We're just taking it one game at a time," said Colorado forward Ian Laperriere, who had two goals Wednesday. "Every point is so huge right now. We have nine games left and we can't afford to let up. I like the way we are playing right now and the way we have approached our games. It is something we will have to repeat and repeat and repeat here."
Peter Budaj made 22 saves against the Oilers, and has started each game for the Avalanche since their run began Feb. 27, posting a 1.98 goals-against average with one shutout in the 10 games. He's 4-1-0 with a 2.81 GAA against Edmonton this season, winning all three of his starts at Rexall Place.
Paul Stastny was held scoreless for the second straight contest Wednesday after his NHL rookie record point streak ended at 20 in Sunday's 4-3 win over San Jose. He has not gone three straight games without a point since a career-high five-game drought from Dec. 2-11.
Captain Joe Sakic has picked up the offensive slack for Stastny, recording four goals and six assists in his last four games. Sakic has two goals and four assists in his last five games against Edmonton, and 87 career points against the Oilers - his third-highest total against any opponent.
The Avs have won four of the last five matchups with the Oilers, outscoring them 23-11 in those victories.
Edmonton has managed only 11 goals during its skid, getting held to less than two goals in every game while being shut out three times.
"I don't think it matters if you play really well and lose, the bottom line is we're not winning," Oilers defenseman Jason Smith said. "We need to figure out what to do to get some results here or it's going to get a lot worse than it is right now."