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Foote to Play Tonight

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote (hip) will return to the Colorado lineup tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.

Foote has missed seven of the last 10 games due to injury. The Avalanche has posted a 6-2-0 record when the veteran defenseman is in the lineup.

Power Play Heating Up
Avalanche defenseman Jordan Leopold opened the scoring during Wednesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks with a power-play goal, burying a shot past Roberto Luongo at the 5:10 mark of the first period.

Leopold’s goal helped to continue a recent trend for the Avalanche –a surging power play which has become more and more of a crucial factor in the team’s success.

The Avalanche’s power play has struggled over the course of the season, due in some part to constant lineup shuffling made necessary by injuries to key players, including Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth. But it looks as though the Avs are turning up the juice at the perfect time. With the team fighting for a playoff berth, that particular facet of the team’s game is beginning to become a bright spot for Colorado.

“Special teams are a huge part of today’s game, especially in the playoffs,” said Smyth. “We have to take full advantage of that, because it’s a great opportunity with the personnel that we have.”

Colorado’s power-play numbers haven’t jumped off the page, but have been quietly efficient and consistent recently.

Following Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Canucks – a contest in which the Avs scored on one of its two opportunities – the club has now recorded a power-play goal in seven of the last eight games, going 8-for-34 (23.5%) during that stretch.

And when they score with a man advantage, the results have been favorable.

Overall, the Avs have notched at least one power-play tally in 37 of their 78 games, posting a 27-8-2 record when doing so. As a point of reference, the club is 14-23-4 when it fails to score with the man advantage. In addition, the Avs have tallied multiple goals with the man advantage on eight occasions, posting a 7-0-1 record in those contests.

It’s a bit of a stretch to compare an eight-game streak to the body of work produced by other clubs over the course of an entire season. But if you look at the Avs’ recent eight-game span, the numbers compare favorably to how some of the league’s top power-play units have fared this season. Through Monday’s games, the Montreal Canadiens hold the NHL’s top power-play percentage this season (24.2%), followed by the Philadelphia Flyers (22.3%).

“Obviously, we look at it and we’re not ranked as high as we could be,” added Smyth. “We’ve had a few injuries, but haven’t always executed properly either. There’s always room for improvement there and right now we seem to be developing some chemistry. We’ve had one power-play goal in almost every game lately, which is crucial now.”

The Avs can take another important step in their quest for a playoff berth on Friday.

If Colorado beats Edmonton in regulation, the Oilers will no longer be able to catch the Avalanche in the standings. With a regulation win, the Avs would be seven points ahead of the Oilers with three games remaining for each club.

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