Avalanche-Oilers Preview

The Colorado Avalanche know what the NHL-worst Edmonton Oilers
are going through.

They are just one season removed from finishing with the Western
Conference’s worst record, but that seems like ancient history
now.

Fresh off clinching a playoff berth, the Avalanche look to win a
third straight game Wednesday night when they visit the lowly
Oilers.

Colorado (43-29-7) wasn’t expected to have much success this
season after finishing last in the West with 69 points in 2008-09,
the franchise’s worst showing since moving to Denver in 1995-96.
The Avalanche managed to surpass last season’s point total by Feb.
6, however, and secured a spot in the playoffs with Tuesday’s 4-3
shootout win over Vancouver.

“A lot of critics said we’d be 14th, 15th in the West, so now to
clinch a playoff spot feels amazing,” said rookie Matt Duchene, who
had the lone goal of Tuesday’s shootout.

Darcy Tucker, T.J. Galiardi and Paul Stastny all scored in
regulation for Colorado, which trails Detroit by three points for
seventh place in the conference. If they can’t catch the Red Wings,
the Avalanche could face West-leading San Jose, whom they beat 5-4
on Sunday to snap a season-worst four-game skid.

Craig Anderson stopped 18 shots against the Sharks on Sunday and
made 28 saves Tuesday in his 10th straight start for Colorado.

“We realized after our strong start this was a possibility,”
Anderson said of the playoff berth, “but I don’t think anyone
outside our locker room had any idea what we had inside this
room.”

Anderson has made four starts against the Oilers this season,
recording three shutouts, but suffered a 5-3 loss Nov. 8.

While the Avs are playoff bound following a disastrous 2008-09,
the Oilers are in the midst of their own dreadful season.

Edmonton (25-46-8) has long been eliminated from the playoffs
and is simply hoping to eclipse a franchise-worst 60 points set in
the 1992-93 season. The Oilers took step toward reaching that mark
with Monday’s 4-1 home win over Minnesota to snap a five-game skid
and give them 58 points.

“It’s late in the year and we’re out of it and you can always
say it doesn’t mean anything, but it does mean something,”
Edmonton coach Pat Quinn said. “It shows we can execute. We just
need to do it when the games are way more meaningful than they are
right now.”

Despite all their struggles, the Oilers are actually playing
well at home, winning eight of 11 there since Feb. 1.

“I think maybe it’s a comfort level when we’re playing at home –
we have the fans behind us and maybe we come out with a little more
energy,” center Ryan Potulny said. “It’s important for us to come
out these last couple games and play well for them.”

Dustin Penner scored twice Monday, giving him a career-best 31
goals. He has scored in each of his last three games, but has only
one goal in nine games against the Avalanche dating back to last
season.

Rookie Devan Dubnyk turned aside 25 shots against the Wild,
improving to 3-2-0 with a 2.38 goals-against average since March 19
after going 0-8-2 with a 4.16 GAA in his first 13 career games.

Dubnyk has never made a start against the Avalanche, while Jeff
Deslauriers is 1-2-0 with a 4.02 GAA against them this season.