Oilers-Avalanche Preview

Lurking just outside the Western Conference playoff picture, the

Colorado Avalanche seem to be in a pattern of taking two steps

forward followed by one step back.

They haven’t been able to sustain much consistency against the

Edmonton Oilers, either.

Trying to regroup from a disappointing loss, Colorado looks to

resume its postseason push Saturday against the Oilers as the

Northwest Division rivals conclude their season series at the Pepsi

Center.

The Avalanche (35-30-4), who won four straight Feb. 22-27 only

to suffer back-to-back defeats, got off track again Thursday with a

4-2 loss at Nashville. Two nights after defeating Minnesota 7-1 to

complete a home-and-home sweep of the Wild, Colorado had difficulty

getting things going versus the Predators.

Despite taking an early 1-0 lead on recently acquired Jamie

McGinn’s fourth goal in three games, Joe Sacco’s team was outshot

31-17 and failed to create a power-play opportunity for the fifth

time this season. The Avalanche entered this season having only

gone without a power-play chance twice since relocating to Colorado

in 1995-96.

“In a game like this, that had such meaning, I didn’t think we

had enough guys giving a full 60 minutes, and that’s not

acceptable,” Sacco said. “We got off to a good start, but then they

pushed back and we didn’t have an answer for it. It’s a game we’re

disappointed with.”

The Avalanche have also experienced mixed results versus the

Oilers (26-35-6), dropping three of five matchups this season. The

teams split two meetings in Colorado before Edmonton took two of

three on its own ice.

The Avalanche have gone 11-11-1 in this series since the start

of 2008-09.

Edmonton has lost four of five games overall after allowing

three third-period goals in Thursday’s 5-3 defeat to Montreal.

“We were a little undisciplined,” said coach Tom Renney, whose

team was playing its third game in four days. “We could have been a

lot smarter.

As tough as it was from a fatigue perspective, you have to play

smart. Had we done that, certainly we had a shot at this game … I

think we could have had it had we played a smarter game.”

Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 26 of 30 shots, falling to 1-11-2

with a 3.75 goals-against average over his last 15 starts.

Khabibulin is 3-4-1 with a 3.49 GAA in his last eight trips to

Colorado.

Given his recent struggles, Khabibulin could give way to Devan

Dubnyk in this one. Dubnyk is 4-2-0 with a 2.18 GAA in his last six

games and 3-1-0 with a 1.75 GAA in four lifetime road games at

Colorado.

Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves Thursday, surrendering

more than two goals for the first time in seven games. He’s gone

5-2-0 with a 1.15 GAA and two shutouts over that stretch.

Varlamov had dropped three of four versus Edmonton before

turning away 26 shots in a 3-1 road win Feb. 17.

Though the Oilers’ 10 road wins rank as the third-fewest in the

league, they’ve certainly held their own as the visiting team of

late. Edmonton has scored a combined 19 goals in taking four of

five in opposing arenas.

The Oilers won’t have to worry about slowing down Colorado

center Matt Duchene, who is expected to miss at least three weeks

with an ankle injury suffered Tuesday. Duchene had tallied 17

points in his last 13 games in this series.