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The last time the Edmonton Oilers visited the Carolina Hurricanes, the Stanley Cup went to the winner. This time, the prize will merely be the end of a losing streak.
The struggling Hurricanes hope to avoid their fifth straight loss Friday when the Oilers - losers of their last two games - visit the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes' (22-23-4) current four-game losing streak is already their longest of the season. Carolina has also dropped four in a row at home and eight of 10 overall, allowing at least four goals seven times over that span.
When Atlanta earned a point in a shootout loss to Montreal on Thursday, Carolina fell out of first place in the Southeast Division for the first time since Oct. 11.
"It's gut-check time," Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "It's not easy when your confidence is a little shaken. You can tell that we're not making plays that maybe we were at the start of the year but this is the NHL and you've got to bounce back. We've got to find a way to do that."
The current struggles appear to start in net. In a 5-1 loss at Ottawa on Thursday, goalie Cam Ward allowed five goals for the second straight start. He's played in all four games of the current skid and has a 4.86 goals-against average over that span.
Against Edmonton in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, Ward had a 2.28 GAA in seven starts, leading the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup and capping off his run to the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP.
Carolina's goaltending problems extend beyond Ward, however. Earlier this month, the Hurricanes sent backup John Grahame to Albany of the American Hockey League and recalled Michael Leighton, who was pulled Tuesday after allowing three goals in two periods of a 5-4 loss to Toronto.
The Hurricanes' 3.24 team GAA ranks 28th in the league.
That could help the Oilers (21-22-5), who rank 26th in the NHL with 2.42 goals per game. They scored four against Washington on Thursday in regulation time, but were unable to put the puck in the net in 12 rounds of a shootout before losing 5-4.
"It's as deep as I've ever been involved in," Edmonton forward Shawn Horcoff said. "We had plenty of chances there to win it, but we just couldn't."
Goalie Dwayne Roloson stopped 28 shots and the first 11 shootout attempts while playing for the first time in eight games.
Mathieu Garon, who had previously been Roloson's backup, was 5-2-0 with a 2.10 GAA in seven consecutive starts before Thursday, and is likely to play against the Hurricanes.
Despite suffering consecutive losses, Oilers are 4-1-1 in their last six games. Horcoff has at least one point in each of those contests. He had two goals and an assist on Thursday to bring his total to five goals and seven assists during his streak.
Edmonton hasn't been to Raleigh in the regular season since a 1-all tie there Nov. 11, 2001. The Oilers lost three of four games at Carolina during the 2006 Cup finals, including a 3-1 defeat in Game 7 as Ward made 22 saves and Frantisek Kaberle scored the game-winning goal.
Kaberle has no goals and 10 assists in 46 games this season.
|Jan 18 '08||EDM 2 at CAR 7||E. Staal|