Backed by strong goaltending and improving offensive play, the Western Conference-worst Edmonton Oilers hope to continue building toward next season.
The East-worst Buffalo Sabres aren’t getting much out of either area as they sit on the verge of a historic losing streak.
While the Oilers look to extend their surge, the Sabres will try to avoid the longest regulation skid in franchise history when the NHL’s worst teams meet in Edmonton on Thursday night.
Viktor Fasth finished with 28 saves in a 5-1 home victory over Nashville on Tuesday to improve to 2-0-1 in three starts with the Oilers (25-36-9). He’s allowed five goals while facing 83 shots since being acquired from Anaheim on March 4.
Fasth has formed a formidable duo with Ben Scrivens, who was picked up from Los Angeles in January. Scrivens is 6-4-0 with a 2.40 goals-against average in his last 10 starts after posting 29 saves in a 2-1 win at Carolina on Sunday.
He’s expected to get another start Thursday as part of the team’s rotation between the pipes. Dating to his time with Toronto, Scrivens has stopped 49 of 52 shots while splitting his last two starts against Buffalo (19-42-8).
"I think right now, with the way they’re playing, they’re in a rhythm of just kind of playing, switching them back and forth," coach Dallas Eakins told the team’s official website.
Although the Oilers have allowed among the most goals in the NHL at 222, they’re surrendered just 2.18 per game while going 10-4-3 over the past 17.
Edmonton also has scored 21 times over its last eight games after totaling seven goals in its previous six. Jordan Eberle led the way with two goals and an assist Tuesday to help the Oilers notch their second straight victory.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added a power-play goal in the second period, giving Edmonton its second power-play score in as many games after going 2 for 36 over its previous 12.
”We have been trying to get some confidence in little things and we started to bear down and found some ways to score, especially on the power play,” Eberle said.
The Oilers hope to continue that production while facing Buffalo goalie Matthew Hackett, who is expected to start for only the second time since the 2011-12 season.
Hackett posted a 3.07 GAA in 33 AHL games before getting called up with Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth out with lower-body injuries. The former third-round draft pick played 13 games with Minnesota from 2011-13 before the Sabres traded for him last April.
The Sabres have allowed 21 goals while scoring six during their second seven-game slide of the season. They haven’t dropped eight straight in regulation in the 43-year history of the franchise.
”It’s just so disheartening is what it is when you have 90 percent of the guys going and a few that are not," said coach Ted Nolan, whose club has scored a league-worst 127 goals.
Drew Stafford has done his part with four goals in six games after scoring in a 3-1 loss at Calgary on Tuesday. He’s also scored six times in five career meetings with Edmonton.
The Sabres had won six straight in the series before Matt Hendricks’ third-period goal gave the Oilers a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Feb. 3. Hendricks, however, is questionable for this meeting with a lower-body injury.