DETROIT – Depleted by injuries, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves saddled with a four-game losing streak.
They have managed to earn points in three of those defeats, however, and help could be on the way starting Saturday when Edmonton tries to end a string of five consecutive road losses to the Detroit Red Wings.
Playing without three of its top four centers in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger, Edmonton (4-3-3) dropped its second straight in overtime by a 3-2 score Wednesday against Dallas.
The Oilers’ first two-day break of the season, though, could help accelerate the returns of two players.
“We’re in the pack and in the games with an opportunity to win, we just need to get a healthy lineup together,” said coach Ralph Krueger, whose team has played past the third period in four of its last five games. “We’re hoping to have Nugent-Hopkins back for our next game on Saturday and Belanger back by Sunday. We want to get back deep into our lineup again and to the four lines we were rolling earlier in the season.
“We’ve had a strange string of events. But the positive on it is that Horcoff is the only long-term injury.”
Adding to that string, center Anton Lander blocked a shot against the Stars and was forced to leave with what Krueger described as a “bad bone bruise.”
“Down the middle we’re hurting, for sure, but we found a way to battle through that adversity and earn another point,” forward Jordan Eberle said Wednesday.
The Oilers haven’t scored more than two goals in any of their past five contests, and they could certainly use an effective Nugent-Hopkins, who had five assists before missing his first game of the season Wednesday due to a shoulder problem. Edmonton has been outshot by double digits in five of its last seven contests.
A lack of offense has also been a problem during the club’s five-game road skid versus Detroit, as Edmonton has totaled five goals in its past four at Joe Louis Arena. The most recent was a 4-2 Red Wings victory last Feb. 8 that made them 8-0-1 in the last nine overall meetings.
“I haven’t seen much of them so I can’t say how they’ve been doing this year, but they’re really skilled and if you let them play their game they’re a difficult team to play against,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg told his team’s official website about the Oilers.
The Wings (5-4-1) had suffered their first back-to-back losses of the season before defeating St. Louis 5-1 on Thursday. Petr Mrazek made 26 saves in his NHL debut and five different players scored for Detroit.
“Anytime you get depth in scoring, it’s a positive thing,” coach Mike Babcock said.
Five Red Wings have at least three goals this season.
Jimmy Howard should be back in net Saturday after getting the night off against the Blues. Howard, who has lost two straight starts while allowing four goals in each, has won six in a row with a 1.65 goals-against average versus the Oilers.
Edmonton’s Sam Gagner has recorded at least one point in all 10 games this season. He scored two goals in each of the last two matchups with the Wings.
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