For a team sitting atop the Pacific Division, the Edmonton Oilers are certainly being doubted these days. As the Oilers play host to the New Jersey Devils on Friday, though, it's understandable why the detractors are becoming easier to hear.
Edmonton has lost the first two clashes on its three-game homestand -- first a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, then then a 5-2 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champs, the St. Louis Blues, on Wednesday -- and has just one regulation win in its last nine games.
To top it off, a team that's known for being an offensive force has scored two or fewer goals in seven of its last nine outings, and won only three of those games.
The lack of offense is a major concern. Leon Draisaitl (29 points), Connor McDavid (26 points) and James Neal (11 goals) are all providing more than their share, but the supporting cast has left plenty to be desired. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has just one goal this season, is among those who have struggled to light the lamp.
"I think everybody in here is giving an honest effort, and we're going to have to start scoring," Nugent-Hopkins recently told NHL.com. "We've struggled with that a little bit this year, but it's a problem when you're not getting the chances. I think our line has been getting the chances, so I think we just have to start bearing down and maybe get a greasy goal in front."
Even just creating energy would make a difference, noted coach Dave Tippett.
"Sometimes you might not even score, but you have to be dangerous," Tippett said. "The other team's got to know that you're in the game, and that's where that second line needs to have a bigger impact on the game."
The Devils were soundly beaten 5-2 by the Calgary Flames on Thursday, a game decided in the second period when they were outshot by a 17-4 count and surrendered four goals.
"We've got to see a good response," said coach John Hynes, who didn't mask his displeasure after the Calgary game. "We have to see the areas that weren't good (Thursday) and we have less than 24 hours to get right back at it."
The quick turnaround will help put such a stinker of a performance in the past.
"It wasn't a good effort by us," Taylor Hall told reporters. "It seems we were disconnected all over the ice. We really fed into their attack. For whatever reason, we didn't have individuals going, and when that's the case, usually your system backs you up.
"Tonight we didn't play our game plan. Probably the last seven games or so, we've been playing very well but tonight wasn't a step in the right direction, so we have to right the ship a little bit. We have another chance to get it back (Friday) but it's really not a game we can take anything from."
New Jersey's most positive news in Calgary was that 2019 first-overall draft pick Jack Hughes collected one goal and one assist. Hughes has collected four goals and five assists over the last eight games.
"He's figuring it out," captain Andy Greene said of the young standout. "He gets more comfortable and confident every game."