EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers say it's not the struggling team, but the slumping economy that's behind the number of empty seats at home games. 

Rogers Place can hold 18,347 fans for hockey but the team says its average attendance has been closer to 17,500 in recent weeks. 

"There’s no question our fans are being more selective for all events right now where the economy’s at in northern Alberta," said Stew MacDonald from the Oilers Entertainment Group. 

The team's last home game, a 6-3 defeat to Carolina, had an announced attendance of 16,175. Anecdotally, fans say there's plenty of empty seats even at games that are technically sold out.

The Oilers have lost three games in a row and five of their last six contests at Rogers Place.

The team hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night in what's historically been a costly ticket. Seats available through Ticketmaster are nearly sold out though many seats are available on the secondary market. 

"We’re dealing with an economy now where certainly we’ve got probably a higher percentage who can’t afford to come to as many games as they would have traditionally come to," said MacDonald.

"The product hasn’t been priced out of the marketplace but it’s something we monitor regularly no question."

With files from Amanda Anderson