Roadkill or road thrill?

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:17 PM ET

DENVER -- It's a five-game road trip spread over 10 days with a pair of back-to-back encounters and a roster missing a half-dozen regulars.

Heading on the longest road trip thus far this season, the Edmonton Oilers were not interested in talking about the implications three or four losses would do to their playoff aspirations.

It's only November, but coming home a handful of games below the break-even mark would put the Oilers in a huge hole moving forward.

"It's five games on the road and we want to get back on the winning track here. We've struggled for the last little while," said winger Fernando Pisani. "We want to start off the road trip on a positive note, with a solid effort. We haven't had one of those in a little while, so that's our main focus right now."

The trip will take the Oilers through Denver, Ottawa, Buffalo, Atlanta and Columbus. It starts tonight against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center where the Oilers had a modicum of success last season, winning two of their three games there. That's one more game than they've won on the road so far this season.

"It's hard to say why we haven't played well on the road so far," said Pisani. "It's one of those things where we have to simplify our game. We're trying to get too cute with the puck instead of just throwing it on the net and getting an ugly goal.

"You just want to make sure you're playing a solid game. We haven't had one of those in a while. You want to make sure we're playing well, get in on the forecheck and just try to create some offensive opportunities for ourselves."

They'll have to do it without three of their big-ticket players as Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray are all out. Hemsky and Horcoff are all out with shoulder issues while Souray is still recovering from a concussion.

The Oilers are also without J-F Jacques (back), Ryan Stone (knee) and Ladislav Smid, who's sick.

Yesterday the club called up Liam Reddox and Ryan Potulny as reinforcements.

"Obviously in the last little while we haven't played as well as we've wanted to and as well as we feel that we can," said Oilers centre Sam Gagner. "There's not a simple reason why we haven't been scoring a lot of goals as of late. We need to get back to playing with a lot of intensity. The reason we were winning games at home early was because of the intensity we were playing with. We were playing with a lot of passion to start games and that was carrying us a long way. Hopefully we can get back to that.

"It'll help us score some goals and we can pull out some wins on the road."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA

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Who to watch

Keep your eye on these two players in tonight's game

SAM GAGNER

PATRICK O'SULLIVAN, OILERS

After getting off to a strong start, the Oilers winger has cooled off. O'Sullivan has gone eight games without a goal and is not getting the quality chances that fell to him during the early part of the year. With Horcoff, Hemsky and Souray out of the lineup, success on this current road trip depends on O'Sullivan's production. He'll play on the top line tonight.

CRAIG ANDERSON, AVALANCHE

After starting every game, the Avs goaltender finally got a night off as Peter Budaj made his first appearance last week. The club's strong start can be attributed to the play of the free-agent acquisition, who has been outstanding so far, backstopping a very young team to top spot in the Western Conference.


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