Oilers looking to gain ground in West

Must win. It's a phrase that's been used to describe the Edmonton Oilers' recent string of games.

The label seems appropriate again Tuesday when the Oilers visit the Pepsi Center to play the Northwest Division-leading Colorado Avalanche.

The Oilers enter the contest 12th in the 15-team Western Conference, eight points back of the eighth-place Dallas Stars. The gap between Edmonton and the rest of the playoff-positioned clubs is widening.

The Oilers have suffered two straight one-goal losses in games they could have won. Edmonton lost 3-2 Thursday to a Tampa Bay Lightning club that was less than 24 hours removed from a heartbreaking overtime defeat in Vancouver.

Saturday's contest was an even more desperate situation for the Oilers. Facing the Nashville Predators, a team they're chasing in the Western standings, Edmonton spotted the Preds a 4-0 lead through 40 minutes en route to a 4-3 defeat.

"It's a tough game to break down because we came out like we wanted to," said Edmonton's Ethan Moreau. "We had a lot of great chances. There's a couple missed assignments and that's unacceptable 50 games into the season."

"It's almost insurmountable when you get down by that much, against any team in the league.''

It's a different story in Colorado, where the Avs have surged to the top of the Northwest Division with 66 points on the season. They lead the second-place Vancouver Canucks by three points.

The Avs return home after an undefeated four-game road trip, which ended Saturday with a 5-3 triumph against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Peter Forsberg paced the Colorado attack with two goals and an assist. Forsberg is on a torrid pace in January, with seven goals and 12 assists through nine games this month.

Colorado has won two straight and four of the last five encounters with the Oilers. The Avs are also unbeaten in the previous five meetings with Edmonton at the Pepsi Center (4-0-1).

After the game, the Oilers return to open a five-game homestand, beginning with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Avs begin a two-game road trip Thursday in Los Angeles before heading to Anaheim Friday to face the Mighty Ducks.

with files from Sports Network and Canadian Press