SUN Hockey Pool

Avalanche in a slide

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

The slide has the Colorado Avalanche precariously close to the edge, somewhere they were safely away from a week ago.

Yesterday's 7-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers reduced their hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference to two points over the Nashville Predators.

The Oilers, meanwhile, pulled three points back.

"It's been a tough road trip," said Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville. "But we still control where we're heading and it's up to us to roll up our sleeves and pick it up."

The loss was the fourth straight for the Avalanche who dropped a game at home to the New Jersey Devils before losing in Minnesota and Calgary prior to Edmonton.

Yesterday they found themselves on the wrong end of an old-fashioned shootout, despite having been able to overcome a three-goal deficit in the third period.

With 84 points and six games left to play, the Avalanche still control their own destiny and now return home for a crucial homestand against Calgary, Vancouver and the Oilers.

They'll finish the regular-season schedule with games in Minnesota and Vancouver before returning home to face the Wild again.

"What's been disappointing for us right now is the way we're starting games," said Avalanche forward Ian Laperriere. "That's what's driving us crazy right now. We all know how important these points are right now and for us to give up the lead like that is unacceptable. We better wake up soon, because we don't have a lot of games left."

Yesterday, the Avalanche went into the game without the services of both Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote, who were added to the lineup at the trade deadline to boost their playoff chances.

Forsberg was out with a groin injury and has only played four games since joining the team. Foote was out with a bad hip.

Yesterday in a rare afternoon contest at Rexall Place, the Avalanche fell behind early to the Oilers as Jose Theodore gave up three goals on eight shots. Yet despite going into the third period down 4-1, the Avalanche were able to tie the game with three goals in 4:16. But they conceded the go-ahead goal 18 seconds later and then gave up another midway though the period.

"Certainly we had a lot of momentum at that time and they were able to get that goal right back," Quenneville said.

"It was a pretty fast-paced game, both teams had chances going both ways and we certainly would have liked to get something out of this."

A week ago, things were looking good for the Avalanche, who had won eight of nine and were atop the Northwest Division standings. But in the tightest division in hockey, all it takes is a short-losing skid to jeopardize playoff hopes. Especially considering all their remaining games are against divisional opponents.

"I think it comes down to everybody individually for us to get out of this," Laperriere said. "If you can't get up for a game like this, then I think you have a problem.

"It's got to come down to every individual to show up for our next games."


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