Avalanche, minus MacKinnon, visit Oilers (Feb 01, 2018)

BY AP • February 1, 2018

After another lengthy layoff, the Edmonton Oilers catch a big break before returning to the ice.

Edmonton, looking for its fifth win in six games, come back from the All-Star break on Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche, who will be without top scorer and Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon.

Edmonton (22-24-3) continued its recent surge and went into the All-Star break after last Thursday's 4-3 shootout win over the Calgary Flames. Connor McDavid scored the game-winner in the tiebreaker and Brandon Davidson notched his first two goals of the season.

This will be the fourth game since Jan. 14 for the Oilers, currently 13th in the Western Conference.

"We want to get back to a real NHL schedule," coach Todd McLellan said. "By the time we get going, we'll have played four games in 22 days. I don't know if that's ever happened before."

Facing a short-handed Colorado (27-18-4) team is a good way to start again as MacKinnon is day-to-day with an upper-body injury suffered in 4-3 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

The 2014 Calder Trophy winner is in a breakout season, leading Colorado with 24 goals and 37 assists, and is second in the league with 61 points.

"Hopefully it's not that serious, and we can get him back in the lineup here soon," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Wednesday on his weekly Denver radio show and reported by the league's official website. "I guess it depends what you classify as serious. Every game without him is not good. ... He may miss a game or two or three, you just don't know how long it will be."

Since Matt Duchene was dealt to the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 5, MacKinnon emerged as the new face of the franchise and exploded on the scoresheet with 21 goals and 27 assists. He's also recorded 13 multi-point games in that span.

With MacKinnon out, Colorado will look to Gabriel Landeskog to build off a two-goal game in the loss to the Canucks. The winger needs one goal to reach 20 for the fifth time in seven seasons.

The Avalanche reeled off 10 straight wins between Dec. 29 and Jan. 22 in which they outscored opponents 41-16 but now is trying to avoid tying a season high with their fourth straight loss.

Colorado will likely face Oilers backup goalie Al Montoya as Cam Talbot is doubtful with an illness. Montoya, acquired Jan. 4 from the Montreal Canadiens for a draft pick, stopped 43 of 45 shots in three appearances with his new club.

"We definitely have a lot of confidence in Monty," McDavid told the Edmonton Sun. "He's been great for us when he needed to be, stepped into a few situations where it wasn't ideal and played great."

The Chicago native is 3-1-2 with a 2.43 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and one career shutout against Colorado.

"You come in and you want to get in the net as soon as possible," Montoya told the Sun. "I'm just ready for the next game and looking forward for the opportunity to play hockey. For me, it's just having fun and being ready to play."

Edmonton is also looking for its fourth straight win over Colorado. The Oilers scored 17 goals during the streak, led by Leon Draisaitl (three), and Drake Caggiula and Milan Lucic (two apiece). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored twice, but he's out with an upper-body injury and may not return until late February.

The Avs said in a tweet Wednesday that Jonathan Bernier will start in goal. After surrendering 12 goals while winning eight straight appearances (seven starts) between Jan. 2 and Jan. 22, the Quebec native is 0-2-1 and has been lit up for 10 goals.

Bernier is 0-2-1 with a 3.32 GAA and .900 save percentage in three career starts in Edmonton.

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