Oilers-Senators Preview

The Associated Press

The Edmonton Oilers are already staring up at the rest of the Western Conference.

With a season-long road trip continuing against the suddenly hot Ottawa Senators, their struggles could grow even worse.

Edmonton looks to avoid a sixth straight defeat Saturday at Ottawa.

There are plenty of defensive issues for the Oilers (1-6-1) under first-year coach Dallas Eakins, whose club's only win came in a 5-4 shootout at home over winless New Jersey on Oct. 7. They lost at home to Montreal and on the first four stops of a six-game trip since.

The 35 goals surrendered by Edmonton are the most in the league, and the club has allowed at least three in every contest. Devan Dubnyk has a 4.91 goals-against average in five starts, while Jason LaBarbera has a 3.22 GAA in three starts and one relief appearance. Their combined .853 save percentage is easily the worst in the NHL.

But a strong performance from Dubnyk - he stopped 37 shots - and a record-breaking accomplishment by Taylor Hall was wasted in a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Hall gave Edmonton a 2-1 edge in the first period after scoring two goals in a span of 8 seconds, breaking Wayne Gretzky's franchise mark of 9 set on Feb. 18, 1981.

"'It's an empty feeling because a loss is a loss," said Hall, whose eight points are tied with Mark Arcobello for the team lead. "It's great to know I have the record but tonight wasn't our best effort. The wheels have really fallen off for us as these losses have piled up."

The Oilers are scoreless on the power play in nine opportunities spanning their last three contests. Their penalty kill is the league's worst, allowing nine goals on 29 chances, including at least one power-play goal in each game.

"I knew this renovation was going to be messy, but I didn't think it would be this messy," Eakins said of his rebuilding squad.

Ottawa (3-2-2) also got off to a rough start, totaling five goals through a 1-2-2 stretch. But the Senators have nine goals in back-to-back victories and are coming off a 5-2 home win over New Jersey on Thursday. It was the first of six home contests during an eight-game stretch after they started the season with a six-game trip.

"We were excited to come home," said Jason Spezza, who recorded a goal and two assists and has six points in his last two games. "We definitely used the energy and got off to our best start of the season so far and that led to us winning the game."

Despite Craig Anderson making 39 saves Thursday and being 6-1-1 with a 1.74 GAA and four shutouts in his last eight starts versus Edmonton, Robin Lehner will start Saturday and make his first appearance against the Oilers.

"Right now, our basis for the goaltenders is based on the number of shots they have to face," coach Paul MacLean said after practice Friday. "If you're going to be facing 45 and 50 (shots), there's no sense in going back-to-back and you might as well give them a chance and be ready to go."

The Senators have won eight of the last 10 meetings, though Edmonton won the most recent matchup, a 4-3 overtime victory at Ottawa on Feb. 11, 2012. Hall scored the winner 17 seconds into the extra period.

Spezza recorded two assists in that game and has 14 points over his last 10 games against the Oilers.

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