COLORADO AVALANCHE (31-25-6) at
EDMONTON OILERS (27-30-5)
6:08 p.m. MST
Rogers Sportsnet West
630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Game Notes | Oilers/Avalanche Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics
Joe Sakic carries the puck up ice for Colorado with Edmonton's Robert Nilsson
The Edmonton Oilers return home following a four-game road trip to kick off a five-game homestand this evening.
In their last game, the Oilers fell 5-2 to the Dallas Stars to finish a four-game road trip with a win and three losses.
Every point is crucial now as the team heads into the final stretch drive. Tonight’s opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, have done well against the Oilers this season with three regulation wins and one shootout victory in four games.
The Avs are one of the teams in Edmonton’s way as they attempt to make a move on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Colorado is nine games back of Edmonton but with four more games head-to-head between now and the end of the season, the Oilers can make up that ground starting tonight.
Colorado has struggled recently having gone winless in five straight (0-4-1) going into Friday’s game at Phoenix.
They are currently on a five-game road trip that has opened with a pair of shootout games - a 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim on Wednesday and a 3-2 marathon shootout win that went 12 rounds against the Coyotes Friday.
Just The Facts...
LINEUP UPDATE (12:25 PM):
The Oilers are expected to go with the same lineup as Friday as Mathieu Garon will get the start in goal this evening... Joe Sakic is likely to return to the lineup for Colorado.
OILERS TO WATCH: Sam Gagner
has continued to pick up where Shawn Horcoff
left off for the Oilers as the number one pivot in Edmonton. Horcoff was injured for the season on January 29 and Gagner was held pointless in the team’s first game without their top centre but he then rattled off points in a career-high eight straight games after that. In those eight games, Gagner has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. He has done well against the Avalanche with three assists in four games. The 18-year-old rookie went without a point in 13 straight games from December 15 to January 17 but in the next 14games after that he's put up 16 points (3g, 13a)… Fellow rookie Andrew Cogliano
has also done well in that same stretch of 13 games. Cogliano has two goals and seven assists for nine points. Gagner and Cogliano now sit sixth and seventh respectively in the NHL’s rookie scoring race.
AVALANCHE TO WATCH:
Before returning to the lineup on Friday from a groin injury, Avalanche leading scorer Paul Stastny last played on January 15 but he still led the Avs in scoring by 10 points going into that game. Stastny scored a goal in his return and now has 11 more points than his closest teammate. In 46 games, Stastny has 18 goals and 33 assists for 50 points. Second on the team is Milan Hejduk with 20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points in 57 games… Both Hejduk and Stastny have done well against the Oilers this season. In four games, Stastny has four assists while Hejduk has two goals and two assists. Tied for the Colorado scoring lead in games against their division rivals is Tyler Arnason. He has four points – two goals, two assists – and leads the Avalanche with a +5 rating against Edmonton. Arnason has 10 goals and 22 points in 23 career games against Edmonton.
Edmonton – Ladislav Smid
(ankle) is doubtful. Shawn Horcoff
(shoulder) is out. Sheldon Souray
(shoulder) is out. Raffi Torres (knee) is out; Colorado – Brett Clark (shoulder) is out. Kyle Cumiskey (groin) is out. Cody McCormick (chest contusion) is out. Joe Sakic (hernia) is questionable. Paul Stastny (groin) is questionable.
With an assist in eight straight games, Gagner is now tied with Wayne Gretzky for the unofficial Oilers rookie record in that category. In 1979-80, Gretzky was not officially recognized as a rookie because he had played the previous season in the World Hockey Association but he also had an assist in eight straight games.
- Pre-game comments from Moreau, Roy, Glencross, Gagner & MacTavish: 700K
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From the Wire
The Colorado Avalanche remain in the mix in the crowded Northwest Division, but if they plan to return to the playoffs, they can't take any opponent lightly.
The Avalanche look to stay focused and continue their recent dominance of the struggling Edmonton Oilers when they make the third stop on a five-game road trip Sunday at Rexall Place.
Colorado (31-25-6) lost the opener of its road swing in Anaheim on Wednesday, but bounced back Friday with a 3-2 shootout victory at Phoenix. Cody McLeod notched his first career shootout goal in the 12th round - the longest tiebreaker ever for both teams - to help the Avalanche end a season-high, five-game losing streak.
Marek Svatos scored in regulation, and Paul Stastny added his 18th goal in his return to the lineup for Colorado, which has won seven of its last 10 road games (7-2-1).
Stastny had been out since Jan. 15 to recover from a groin injury suffered while trying to return from an appendectomy. Despite his 15-game absence, the second-year center still leads the Avalanche with 32 assists and 50 points.
Colorado has renewed hopes of making its 12th postseason appearance in 13 seasons after failing to reach the playoffs in 2006-07. With Friday's victory, the Avs created an even closer race in the Northwest, where the top four clubs are separated by just five points.
"Every point's huge," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've lost a lot of ground the last week and a half."
Colorado also holds a nine-point division lead over last-place Edmonton (27-30-5), which owns the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
The Avalanche are 8-1-1 against the Oilers since Nov. 30, 2006, winning all four meetings this season, including a 4-2 home victory on Nov. 28 in the most recent matchup. They seek their longest winning streak over the Oilers since a six-game run from Feb. 21, 1997-Jan. 26, 1998.
The Avs have won five of their last six visits to Edmonton, which is beginning a five-game homestand.
While the Oilers have won their last three contests at Rexall Place, they have dropped three straight games overall, including a 5-2 defeat at Dallas on Friday.
Dustin Penner and Curtis Glencross scored for the Oilers, who have not lost more than three in a row since an 0-4-2 stretch from Dec. 18-31.
"We had frenetic play in our zone, we took penalties, and we never recovered," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "We played marginally better in the third period but there wasn't enough composure in our end and they capitalized."
Dwayne Roloson was in the net for the final 20 minutes of Friday's loss in place of starter Mathieu Garon, who has dropped his last three starts.
Garon is 3-2-0 with a 3.31 goals-against average in seven career games against Colorado. Roloson, who has not started since a Feb. 1 loss to Dallas, is 10-14-1 with two ties and a 3.49 GAA in 29 appearances versus the Avalanche.
Oilers rookie Sam Gagner has two goals and nine assists during an eight-game point streak. He has three assists in four games against Colorado.