The Edmonton Oilers are once again on the outside of the playoff picture as they prepare for the first of two games in five days against the resurgent Anaheim Ducks.
The clubs are separated by just one point in the ridiculously tight Western Conference standings. Before Edmonton hosts Anaheim next Tuesday, the team will play in Minnesota on Sunday.
The Oilers picked a fine time to lose to the Phoenix Coyotes, falling 3-2 on Thursday. Edmonton had won the previous seven meetings between the clubs.
With Nashville and St. Louis both winning, it made Edmonton's position more precarious.
Edmonton fell behind 3-0 and it could have been worse if not for the work of Dwayne Roloson, and the goal post.
The middle period continued to be a tricky stanza, with the Oilers now minus-18 for the year in the second.
While the Oilers only gave up 23 shots, they were often caught standing around in their own end as the Coyotes hit and created opportunities.
The most positive aspect of the game was streaky Ales Hemsky scoring for the first time in nine games and adding an assist.
Ales Kotalik also scored, giving him six points in 11 games since coming over from Buffalo at the trade deadline.
Mucker Liam Reddox returned after taking a blow to the head last week, but struggled with a minus-2 ledger in just under nine minutes of action.
Roloson will get his 31st consecutive start on Friday and coach Craig MacTavish said he will be in until the team's fate is determined.
Anaheim struggled in February and early March but has now won five in a row and six of the last seven. The only loss in that span was an intense 1-0 defeat to Western power San Jose.
The Ducks preyed on the pitiable goaltending of the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, winning 7-2 on just 29 shots on Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft.
Corey Perry scored twice and defenceman James Wisniewski had a hand in three goals. Jonas Hiller was strong in net, finishing with 34 saves.
Five-foot-nine-inch forward Andrew Ebbett continued to shine, with a goal and two assists. The Vernon, B.C., native is filling the kind of role Andy McDonald used to for the Ducks, and has seven goals and 21 assists in 40 games.
Anaheim and Edmonton have split a pair of 3-2 games this season, with the Oilers garnering an extra point in an overtime loss to the Ducks.