The Colorado Avalanche have hit a slight snag during an impressive rise to playoff contention just one season after finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Perhaps a matchup with the team currently occupying that spot will help.
The Avs begin a four-game homestand Saturday night against the league-worst Edmonton Oilers, who will be trying to snap an eight-game road losing streak that extends nearly two months.
Colorado (31-19-6) still sits in postseason position despite dropping four of five, including a 5-3 defeat at Nashville on Thursday night that marked the end of a sharp run by goalie Craig Anderson(notes).
In his previous 17 starts, Anderson had allowed three or fewer goals, going 11-6-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average. He had a 1.26 GAA in his most recent eight games before giving up four goals in the second period alone Thursday.
The Avalanche also have encountered some offensive struggles, totaling three goals during a three-game losing streak last week, but the young club has scored eight in the last two contests and doesn’t seem to have lost confidence.
“There are things that we know we can fix,” center Paul Stastny(notes) told the Avs’ official Web site. “I guess that’s a positive, because we know what we need to do to get better as a team and as individuals. But at the same time we’ve got to turn it around. We’ve been slipping a little bit in our game and it’s showing in the standings.”
Coach Joe Sacco announced Anderson will start Saturday, but one possible change for Colorado could be in the line combinations. Left wing T.J. Galiardi(notes) replaced Wojtek Wolski(notes) alongside Stastny and Chris Stewart(notes) on Friday, with Wolski moving to a line with rookies Matt Duchene(notes) and Brandon Yip(notes).
Despite its recent slip, Colorado remains in sixth place in the West, a vast improvement after closing last season with 69 points - 10 fewer than any other team in the conference.
The Oilers (18-32-6) already have an even bigger hole at the bottom of the West after going 1-18-2 from Dec. 15-Jan. 30, including a 13-game losing streak that was snapped Monday with a 4-2 win over Carolina.
The most lopsided defeat in that stretch was a 6-0 loss at Colorado on Jan. 18. Kyle Cumiskey(notes) and Duchene each scored two goals for the Avalanche, while Anderson made 24 saves to blank Edmonton for the third time in his last four starts against them.
That matchup also was part of the Oilers’ current eight-game road slide, during which they haven’t managed a single point. Their last road win was a 5-3 victory at St. Louis on Dec. 11.
Edmonton opened a five-game trip with a 4-2 loss at Minnesota on Thursday night, allowing two goals in the final eight minutes to break a 2-2 tie.
“That’s been the story of a lot of our games,” coach Pat Quinn said. “We just don’t do it, and they do. We waste a good effort. I suppose it’s not a waste if we learn something.”
With goalie Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) still out, Jeff Deslauriers continues to see most of the action and has a 3.43 GAA in his last 17 starts. He’s gotten little offensive support - especially on the road, where the Oilers have totaled nine goals during the eight-game skid.