An extended stretch of struggles earlier this season has not stopped the Philadelphia Flyers from making a playoff push. Such an outcome is all but impossible for the Edmonton Oilers after a far more severe swoon.
Coming off their first victory of 2010, the Oilers try to win two in a row for the first time since early December when they face the visiting Flyers -- a team they have dominated of late -- Wednesday night.
Philadelphia went 3-13-1 from Nov. 20-Dec. 21, a slump that put its hopes of a third straight playoff berth in doubt and prompted the team to replace coach John Stevens with Peter Laviolette.
The Flyers (28-23-3) have responded by going 13-5-1 in the last six weeks, jumping back into postseason position in the Eastern Conference. They opened a three-game road trip with a 3-0 win over Calgary on Monday night, getting two goals from Mike Richards and 18 saves from Ray Emery.
"We knew we had to play for 60 minutes, which is something we've gotten away from a little bit the last couple games," Laviolette said. "That was probably our best 60-minute effort in quite a few games."
Richards broke through after scoring one goal over his previous 10 games -- a stretch during which the Flyers were carried by sharp defense. Emery has gone 5-2-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last seven starts, rounding back into form after a 17-game absence following abdominal surgery.
"Coming off his surgery, it looks like he's a lot more confident, a lot more comfortable in net, not letting out too many rebounds, playing the puck a lot better and made the big saves when he needed to do," Richards said of Emery, who has never faced Edmonton.
The Oilers (17-31-6) are missing injured No. 1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, one of several factors that have caused them to go 2-18-2 in their last 22 games. They had dropped 13 in a row before beating Carolina 4-2 on Monday night.
Jeff Deslauriers made 33 saves and Marc Pouliot's first goal of the season was the winner, helping Edmonton to its first victory since Dec. 30.
"It's obviously a great feeling," center Sam Gagner said. "You never want to be in that situation. But it was great to have fun again. It's only one win. Hopefully it gives us some confidence."
Edmonton has not won two in a row since a five-game winning streak Dec. 3-11, and any sustained success would be an improvement for a team that has sunk to the bottom of the NHL standings.
The Oilers, also without 2008-09 leading scorer Ales Hemsky as well as a trio of regular defensemen, are in a double-digit hole in the West cellar.
"It hasn't been easy, and it was certainly not something I expected to happen to this hockey team," coach Pat Quinn said. "We've had some rough spots in a lot of these games and haven't held up."
The Flyers will be seeking their first win over Edmonton since a 4-2 victory at Rexall Place on March 19, 2001. The Oilers have gone 5-0-0 with a tie in the previous six meetings, winning the last four.