In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Edmonton Oilers' impressive start now seems like a distant memory.
The Oilers will try to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
After an 8-2-2 start, Edmonton (12-10-3) has cooled off considerably, and is 0-2-1 in its last three games including a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle scored to give the Oilers an early two-goal lead, but the Wild rallied and eventually won it in the sixth round of the shootout.
Edmonton has blown leads in all three losses during its skid, capping a disappointing finish to November. The Oilers are 3-7-1 in their last 11, having scored two goals or fewer six times during that stretch.
Despite the skid, Edmonton is still ahead of last season's record through 25 games (9-12-4), and the fact that the Oilers have experienced some success is a good step for the young club, according to coach Tom Renney.
"I think there's a responsibility to winning, and that means you've got to keep doing it," he said. "Maintaining a certain standard of play and looking for a certain outcome no matter what. ... We're learning how to deal with that still, but we can't be afraid of it."
While Edmonton has struggled to hold leads, Nugent-Hopkins isn't letting up, recording four goals and 13 points in his last seven games. He's tied for fifth in the NHL with 27 points and leads all rookies with 11 goals.
"Keep it going kid," Renney said. "It's remarkable."
Nugent-Hopkins and the Oilers have dropped the first two of a season-high six-game homestand, but their next two games are against two of the three bottom teams in the Western Conference standings, with Calgary visiting Saturday.
Columbus (7-15-3) has the fewest points in the West, but is 4-2-1 in its last seven games. After back-to-back losses in which they totaled two goals, the Blue Jackets defeated the Flames 4-3 in a shootout on Thursday.
Columbus rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final minutes of regulation. After Nikita Nikitin scored with 4:05 remaining, Columbus pulled goaltender Curtis Stanford and Rick Nash scored with 58 seconds to play. Nash also had the only goal of the shootout.
The Columbus captain has struggled overall this season, tallying seven goals, 17 points and a minus-10 rating, but he has four goals in his last six games.
"It's a huge step for us," Nash said of Thursday's win. "It was a huge comeback, but (Friday) we have to be much better. ... Hopefully we can bring the last five minutes of momentum into (Friday) night's game."
The Blue Jackets could get a big boost with the return of left wing Kristian Huselius, who will make his season debut after suffering a pectoral injury while lifting weights prior to the season. Huselius has 58 goals and 142 points since signing with Columbus in July 2008.
The Jackets have two games remaining on their four-game road trip through Canada. They're 2-8-2 away from home.
These teams split four meetings in 2010-11, with the home team winning each.
Eberle had three goals and an assist against Columbus last season. He has six goals and nine assists in his last nine games overall.