Avalanche-Oilers Preview

The Colorado Avalanche are very much in the mix for a playoff

spot, but they may need to improve their play quickly to stay


Getting a better result against the last-place Edmonton Oilers

would certainly help.

Colorado looks to avoid a third straight loss overall and fourth

in five meetings with Edmonton this season when the teams meet at

Rexall Place on Friday night.

The Avalanche (28-26-4) are in the thick of the race for one of

the Western Conference’s final postseason berths, but their recent

struggles haven’t helped matters. They have gone 2-5-2 in their

last nine while Calgary and Phoenix, two teams they are battling

for positioning, have picked up their play in recent weeks.

The Avs looked to be coming out of their slump with back-to-back

wins last week that followed a four-game skid, but they’ve since

dropped two in a row. Colorado had managed to earn at least a point

in four straight before falling 3-1 to Vancouver on Wednesday.

The Avs gave up the go-ahead goal with 6:29 remaining and could

only manage Erik Johnson’s goal – his second in two nights after

scoring one in his first 50 games – midway through the second


Colorado was unable to take advantage of a strong performance by

Semyon Varlamov, who replaced an injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere in

the first period and stopped 20 of 21 shots. The Avs also lost

winger T.J. Galiardi to an injury midway through the first.

“I thought we regrouped. We dug in,” coach Joe Sacco said. “We

faced a little bit of adversity there, but I liked the way our guys

responded being short-handed on the bench.”

The status of Giguere and Galiardi for Friday is uncertain.

Varlamov has struggled in starting all four games versus the Oilers

this season – his only four career matchups with Edmonton – going

1-3-0 with a 3.05 goals-against average.

Two of those games were at Rexall Place, both Avs losses. The

Oilers took the most recent meeting there 3-2 on Jan. 31, holding

on despite getting outshot 15-4 in the third period.

Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves in that game, but he hasn’t started

since Feb. 6 after allowing 13 goals over his last three games.

Veteran Nikolai Khabibulin has been in net for the last three

contests and given up 11 goals, but he’s faced the usual barrage of

shots that he and Dubnyk have grown accustomed to. The Oilers

(22-28-6) are giving up 31.4 shots on goal per game, among the

worst marks in the league.

They only allowed 26 to Toronto on Wednesday and outshot an

opponent for the first time in 12 games but lost 4-3 in overtime.

Edmonton has dropped three of four since a 4-0-1 stretch.

The Oilers fell behind 2-0 in the opening 1:38 but rallied to

force overtime.

“We had a slow start but came back hard and played a good game,”

said Ben Eager, who scored for the second straight game. “We had

our chances to win, but unfortunately we couldn’t convert.”

Jordan Eberle scored in a fifth consecutive home game and has 10

goals in his last nine at Rexall Place.

Eberle leads the team with 25 goals overall and left wing Taylor

Hall is next with 20 after scoring his second in as many games

Wednesday. Hall has five goals and six assists in his last eight


Edmonton’s Sam Gagner has seven points against Colorado this