AT THE MORNING SKATE:
After taking Sunday off to help some players beat a resurgence of the flu bug, the Oilers took to the ice for morning skate Monday at Pepsi Center in Denver.
After earning a goal and five assists in a four-game conditioning assignment with the AHL's Springfield Falcons, Marc Pouliot was recalled earlier in the day and joined the team in Denver.
Despite playing three games the past three days, the forward is eager to make it four-in-four tonight.
"I know I'm going to get sore here and there. If I play tonight it's going to be four games in four nights so it might be stiff. But overall I feel really good and I'm really happy to be back," he said.
Pouliot knows tonight's game will be faster and tougher than the AHL games he appeared in, but he's confident that he can contribute at this level.
"I haven't played (in the NHL) since pre-season so I don't know exactly how I'm going to react, but it went well in the minors. For sure it's a step forward here, a big step, but I think I'm ready for it."
The flu strikes again
With Pouliot's return, the Oilers will be able to ice a full contingent vs. the Avalanche, offsetting Steve Staios, who will miss the game due to the flu. The defenceman is the latest of a handful of players to succumb to the bug.
"Marc's played three games in three nights so initially I was hesitant," Head Coach Pat Quinn said after the morning skate. "If Stevie had been alright I might not have played him, but let's go. Let's find out."
"(Fernando Pisani) was feeling a lot better yesterday," the coach continued. "[Shawn Horcoff] had a hard game the other night because he had lots of minutes, and it'll be the same for Fernando tonight. But they're ready to play and hopefully we don't drain them too much for this."
Deslauriers or Dubnyk? Decisions, decisions ...
After giving Devan Dubnyk the start the past two games, Quinn has tapped Jeff Deslauriers for tonight's game.
"The book has not been written on either guy yet. I think we have to find out about these young men. Are they number ones yet? I don't think so, but we need to find out if one of them can step forward and continue to improve," Quinn said.
"They will probably have an opportunity to play lots of hockey between the two of them from here to the end of the season."
OILERS (16-26-5) at AVALANCHE (27-15-6)
Last 10: Edmonton 1-8-1; Colorado 6-4-0
Season Series: This is the fourth meeting of six between the Oilers and the Avalanche. While the Avs shut out Edmonton in their first matchup on Oct. 27, the Oilers took the last two games, 5-3 on Nov. 8 and 6-4 on Nov. 18. Center Ryan Potulny scored in both wins for Edmonton.
Big Story: With Colorado's big 3-1 win over the Eastern-Conference leading Devils Saturday afternoon, the Avalanche took over sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division with 60 points. Vancouver and Calgary follow closely behind with 58 points each. The Oilers are in last place in the Northwest with 37 points, just two points ahead of the Hurricanes, who sit at the bottom of the League standings.
Oilers: Edmonton faced the Pacific Division-leading Sharks on Saturday and remained winless in 2010 as they fell 4-2. The Oilers tied the game late in the first period on a Denis Grebeshkov goal, but San Jose responded with three straight. Patrick O'Sullivan cut the Sharks' lead to two midway through the third with a shorthanded goal, making Edmonton the last team in the NHL to score one this season. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk got a second consecutive start and made 32 saves.
To make things even more difficult for the Oilers, the team has been hit with the flu. While Shawn Horcoff was able to play against the Sharks, he, Fernando Pisani and Gilbert Brule all have flu-like symptoms.
"We're not exactly on fire when we had everybody healthy, so things haven't changed much," captain Ethan Moreau said. "They have better offensive players that capitalized and scored more goals than us. The game was played pretty evenly but they just have high-end guys that win games for them. To beat these guys, you almost have to play a perfect game."
Avalanche: The Avs got on the board with two first-period goals Saturday against the Devils and held off a surging New Jersey squad for most of the game. The Devils made it a one-goal game early in the third, but after a huge penalty kill late in the game, Wojtek Wolski chipped in an empty-netter with 13 seconds remaining to seal the win for Colorado.
Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson was the star of the game. The Illinois native gave the Avs a 37-save performance to keep his team in the game and improve Colorado to 10-4¬1 against Eastern Conference teams.
"They were going to do everything they can to get that game-tying goal," Anderson said. "They're going to throw everything at the net. Our guys did a great job allowing me to see the puck and clean up some of the rebounds and make some big blocks. I couldn't do it without the guys in front of me. Without them, we don't win this game."
Who's Hot: O' Sullivan has 10 points in 10 games for the Oilers and is riding a three-game points streak. … With a goal and an assist against the Devils on Saturday, Avalanche right wing Chris Stewart has four goals and two assists in his last six games, while defenseman John-Michael Liles has four assists in his last five games.
Injury Report: As noted, Horcoff, Pisani and Brule have flu-like symptoms. Center Ryan Stone missed Saturday's game with a knee injury, while Steve Staios (head) is questionable for Monday. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (back surgery), forwards Mike Comrie (mononucleosis) and Ales Hemsky (shoulder surgery) are on the injured reserve. Marc Pouliot (sports hernia) is likely to be in the lineup tonight after returning from Springfield.
For the Avalanche, Milan Hejduk took warm-up on Saturday, but sat out the game with a recurring knee injury. Defensemen Adam Foote (ankle), Ruslan Salei (back) and right wing David Jones (torn left ACL) are all on the injured reserve.
Stat pack: Just past the mid-point of the season, the Oilers' man games lost is 259, surpassing their man games lost for the entire 2008-09 regular season (225).
Puck drop: "I don't think we're surprising anyone anymore," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said after the Avs' win over the Devils. "Maybe at the start of the season we were, but that's gone by the wayside. Teams are ready for us, just like we try to be ready for every team we play. We're not sneaking up on anyone anymore."