Edmonton looks to avoid losing five in a row on the road for the first time in nearly two years Saturday night when it meets a Toronto team playing some of its best hockey of the season.
The Oilers (31-27-6) are among a handful of teams vying for the last few playoff spots in the West, but they are struggling of late.
Edmonton has dropped the first two on its four-game road trip and is on the verge of losing five straight away from home for the first time since a nine-game skid from Feb. 25-April 5, 2007.
The Oilers fell to 2-4-2 in their last eight overall Thursday night, losing 4-2 to Ottawa. Edmonton allowed a goal 12 seconds into the game and was down 3-0 just 6:06 into the second period.
“It was a very puzzling and disappointing game - it’s the time for introspection for them,” coach Craig MacTavish said. “You have the expectation of a certain amount of intensity when you play a game like this, in the situation that we’re in, and we go out and we mangle it.”
Sam Gagner scored twice for Edmonton, which has allowed 10 goals in the first two games of the trip.
“When you have a certain percentage of your defensemen that play the way they did tonight, you can’t win at this level,” MacTavish said after Thursday’s game. “You’ve got to have reliability first and playmaking ability second, and we fell short on both of those areas on a high percentage of our back end.”
Edmonton will be looking to get back on track against a Toronto club that has earned at least one point in a season-high eight straight games (5-0-3). The Maple Leafs (26-26-13) won 2-1 at Southeast Division-leading Washington on Thursday night behind new acquisition Martin Gerber.
The 34-year-old Gerber made 37 saves in his Maple Leafs debut after being picked up Wednesday off re-entry waivers from the Senators. Toronto acquired him on the same day Vesa Toskala, 7-0-4 since the All-Star break, announced he would need season-ending hip surgery.
“I was a little nervous and emotional to come back and play a game here tonight,” Gerber said. “I tried to keep it simple. The guys did a great job to bounce bodies away from the net and let me see the puck.
“It’s just fun to be back on the ice and actually win a game. You’re so pumped to be back and get another shot.”
Toronto is in 11th place in the East, nine points behind the final playoff spot.
“Our guys have been competing really hard and feel good about themselves,” coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ll just keep on going and see what we can do.”
The Maple Leafs have won three straight and five of six against the Oilers, including 5-2 in Edmonton on Nov. 13. This will be the teams’ first meeting in Toronto since a 4-3 Leafs win Feb. 17, 2007.