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In less than nine months, the Edmonton Oilers have gone from reaching the Stanley Cup finals to the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention.
Losers of nine in a row, the Oilers continue a six-game homestand Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues.
It appears Edmonton will not be able to defend its Western Conference championship. A loss in this game, as well as a win by Calgary over Minnesota on Saturday, would officially knock the Oilers out of the postseason chase with more than three weeks left in the season.
Edmonton (30-35-6) is just two losses shy of the longest losing streak in franchise history, an 11-game slide from Oct. 16-Nov. 7, 1993 during which it was outscored 49-26. Its offense during this skid has been even worse.
The Oilers have been outscored 34-7 over the last nine games after a 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night. Their special teams have been awful during the losing streak as Edmonton has allowed 11 power-play goals in 34 chances while going 0-for-27 with the man advantage.
"We're just not getting any breaks around the net," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.
The last eight defeats have come after then-leading scorer Ryan Smyth was dealt to the New York Islanders at last month's trading deadline.
Robert Nilsson, acquired in that trade, was recalled from the minors before the game against the Wild and he scored late in the third period to prevent the Oilers from being shut out for the fourth time since Feb. 27.
"To get a goal in your first game, that's a heck of a feeling," said Nilsson, who had 10 points in seven games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. "That's pretty special. It's too bad it couldn't have been part of a win, too."
The Oilers ended an 0-3-1 slide against Blues on Nov. 16 by scoring a season-high four power-play goals in a 6-2 win at Rexall Place.
St. Louis (29-29-12) also is slumping. It lost for the fifth time in six games with a 3-2 overtime defeat in Vancouver on Thursday night.
After the Blues managed a total of seven shots over the first two periods, they finally got goals from Jamal Mayers and Petr Cajanek 3:35 apart late in the third period to tie the game.
But St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer got a double-minor for roughing in the final minute of regulation after getting into a scrap with Matt Cooke, who tripped up goaltender Curtis Sanford behind the net. Sanford was beaten by Daniel Sedin 1:09 into the extra period.
"I was just trying to make as many saves out there as I could and trying to keep it close," said Sanford, who had 34 saves. "To come out that flat is not acceptable, but at the same time to battle back shows how much grit we have."
With starter Manny Legace recovering from knee surgery, Sanford has seen his playing time increase. He's 4-0-0 with a 2.40 goals-against average versus the Oilers and made 30 saves in a 5-3 win on Nov. 12 in his only appearance against them this season.
Though they're likely to miss the playoffs for a second straight season, the Blues still have engineered an impressive turnaround since Andy Murray took over as coach for the fired Mike Kitchen on Dec. 11.
St. Louis is 22-12-8 under Murray after a 7-17-4 start with Kitchen.