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AT THE MORNING SKATE
Less than a week after adding four call-ups, including three rookies, to their roster, the Oilers announced more line-up changes due to injury Saturday morning.
With a divisional battle vs the Avalanche on tonight's agenda, the Oilers will be forced to play without Colin Fraser.
"He's got a bad foot. He took a shot in the foot the other night and can't get his skate on," head coach Tom Renney explained.
The coach is "uncertain" about the 26-year-old centre's recovery timeline but doesn't think he will travel on the team's upcoming two-game road trip.
"If he does, it will be because he can skate and we at least can forecast him skating," Renney said. "We'll see how that goes. I'm going to tell you it's day-to-day and that's just me making a statement without really having any conversation with T.D. (Forss, head athletic therapist)."
Although Fraser is a new addition to the Oilers injured list, the numbers will stay the same because Theo Peckham is rejoining the line-up. The young defenceman has missed the past eight games due to a concussion and is looking forward to contributing on the ice.
"I definitely feel 100 percent," Peckham said. "Any time you have to sit on the couch and watch your team play and the guys kind of go into battle without you, it's tough. So I mean, definitely for me tonight, it's definitely huge for me to get back in."
By losing a forward and gaining a defenceman, Renney has decided to balance the line-up by moving blueliner Jason Strudwick to forward. The veteran skater has played up front before, and Renney is confident he can handle the increased offensive responsibility.
"He understands the game well enough to know that whatever position is being played, he knows what to do," Renney stated. "Obviously I have to make sure that we deploy our people in a way that gives us a chance to win, so we'll see how he starts off and take it from there."
With Strudwick slotted in, the forward lines will be as follows:
Jones - Cogliano - Eberle
Paajarvi - Reddox - Omark
Giroux - O'Marra - Hartikainen
MacIntyre - VandeVelde - Strudwick
Nikolai Khabibulin will be tasked with protecting the net from the Avalanche, a team the Oilers have defeated three of four times this season.
"We have had good success against them, the last couple times especially, and I'm not sure I know why," Renney admitted. "I like to think it's because we're engaged and we played well and we executed well and we stuck with it.
"I'm not sure what the circumstances will be tonight that provides us the necessary momentum to go win a hockey game, but it has to start with us. It can't be anything other than that, we have to just pay attention to playing hard, getting a good start, sustaining it, and really trying to stay with a game plan that we think will give us a chance to win."
Colorado has lost its past 10 games and Edmonton is prepared to see a desperate club tonight.
"They're definitely a team that's struggling, but that often brings the best out of teams," Peckham said. "We expect them to come in tonight and play a really hard, solid game. So we're going to have to match that."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
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Last 10: Colorado 0-9-1; Edmonton 3-6-1
Season Series: This is the fifth meeting of six this season between the two Northwest division rivals. Edmonton has won three of the prior contests, including the last two meetings which both by a score of 5-1. Colorado did manage to beat Edmonton 4-3 in a shootout on Dec. 30.
Big Story: Which team will snap its current losing skid? Colorado has dropped 10 in a row, while Edmonton has lost five straight.
Avalanche: Colorado has some good news and some bad news going into Saturday night's contest with the Oilers. The bad news is that Colorado has lost 20 of its last 21 games. The good news is that Erik Johnson, who left after blocking a shot in the first period of Thursday night's game with the Flames, is likely to play Saturday night after ex-rays revealed no serious injuries in his ankle. This is good for the depleted Avalanche squad which is without veterans Adam Foote (ankle) and Milan Hejduk (shoulder).
Not only do injuries seem to keep piling up for the Burgundy and Blue, but the losses also keep piling up, and Thursday's loss was anything but hopeful. The Avs allowed two power-play goals in the first period and never caught up in a 5-2 loss at Calgary.
"Obviously, in the last couple of months, things have not gone our way. Our confidence level is not high," Ryan O'Byrne told the Denver Post. "To get down two goals early to an experienced Calgary team that plays very smart defensively and plays a good sound game, it's a long ways to go."
Oilers: Edmonton dominated play Thursday against Phoenix, but wound up losing 3-1 despite outshooting the Coyotes 36-17.
Magnus Paajarvi scored the lone goal in the third period. Rookies Teemu Hartikainen and Chris Vande Velde made their NHL debuts because five of Edmonton's top seven scorers are sidelined with injuries.
"You could tell that they were proud to be here," coach Tom Renney said of the rookie debuts. "You could tell they wanted badly to contribute, and ... they wanted to do well on behalf of themselves to put out a good showing."
The Oilers hope to carry the effort into the game against the Avs.
"If we come out with the type of effort we had last night and manage the puck well and hopefully have a little more success, for example on our power-play, then I think we've got a real good shot at winning," head coach Tom Renney said.
Who's Hot: Keeping up with the Joneses, Colorado's David Jones has three points in his last four games (1g-2a) while Edmonton's Ryan Jones has two goals in three games.
Injury Report: For Colorado Ryan Stoa returned on Thursday just two weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy surgery. Foote (ankle) and Hejduk (shoulder) are day to day, and Kyle Cumiskey (upper body), Tomas Fleischmann (blood clots), T.J. Galiardi (forearm), Peter Mueller (concussion) and Kyle Quincey (shoulder) are all out. … In Edmonton, forwards Taylor Hall (ankle), and Sam Gagner (hand) and defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle) are all out for the season while defenseman Taylor Chorney (knee) and forward Ales Hemsky (shoulder) hope to return in a few weeks. Defenseman Theo Peckham is day-to-day with a concussion.
Stat Pack: Colorado is 1-18-2 in its last 21 games; the Avs have split two 10-game losing streaks with a win against St. Louis.
Puck Drop: "Colorado is a good hockey club and they're proud too. They're going to want to win. They're going to look at us the same way we look at them and come after us, so we've got to be ready for that." -Renney.
-- Deborah Francisco - NHL.com Staff Writer