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Morning Skate Report: March 12

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche has crossed the midway-point of the regular season; meaning just about every game here on out is a must-win. That especially rings true tonight as Colorado hosts Northwest Division foe Edmonton at Pepsi Center (7 p.m.).

Colorado is just four points out of the top-spot in the division and one-point ahead of the Oilers in the standings.

“It’s a game where we are battling with them [for the playoffs],” said Avalanche left wing Jamie McGinn after today’s morning skate. “No spot is given, we are all in the hunt, but these games where we can kind of jump ahead when we play each other, those are the most important and we have to take advantage of it. We need the two points tonight.”

Tonight’s game will be the fourth meeting of the season between the Avalanche and Oilers and the second game this year in Colorado’s home arena. In the last meeting at Pepsi Center on Feb. 2, the Avs were down 1-0 after the first period but scored three unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes to pick up the 3-1 win.

The Oilers however are leading the season series, 2-1-0, after picking up wins in Edmonton on Jan. 28 and on Feb. 16. That last game featured wide-open skating and back-and-forth scoring; each time one team scored, the other quickly matched.

John Mitchell (#7) delivers a hit on Edmonton's Ales Hemsky (#83) during the Feb. 2, 2013 game at Pepsi Center (Getty Images).

“We learned our lesson last time we played these guys in Edmonton,” said Colorado head coach Joe Sacco. “Right from the start, it turned into one of those types of games. Even though we like to skate, we like to push the pace; we feel that we have a strong transition game, ideally, that is not the type of game we want to play. We believe as a group that, that is not a recipe for success long-term, playing those types of games. We feel that we can skate with anybody in the league, but there is a certain way that we want to do it.”

Defenseman Shane O’Brien said the best way to limit the Oilers’ transition game is to take away how much space they have to work with.

“We are just going to do our best to stay up, keep our gap tight, in their face as much as we can because if you give them some room to move and skate and start feeling good, they are tough to play against," O'Brien said. "Hopefully we can be in their face all night, play physical on them and make it real hard in them.”

Avalanche Spotlight On: Matt Duchene

Matt Duchene scored two goals, including the game-winner in the final second of overtime, last game to lead the Avalanche to a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.

Matt Duchene
Center - COL
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 26
SOG: 60 | +/-: 3
Duchene is tops on the team in points (26), goals (11), assists (15-tied), game-winning goals (2-tied), faceoff percentage (54.9 percent) and shooting percentage (18.3 percent).

He is on a three-game goal streak and has seven points (four goals and three assists) in those contests. Last Friday against Chicago, he tied a career-high with four points, scoring a goal and adding a career-best three assists.

Tonight’s opponent in Edmonton is a team that Duchene has historically liked playing against as he has scored more of his points against the Oilers than any other team in the NHL. He has 23 points (six goals and 17 assists) in 18 career games versus Edmonton.

More Morning Notes

- Joe Sacco said that he would use the same lineup as last game against San Jose. Center Mark Olver and defensemen Tyson Barrie and Greg Zanon are expected to be the healthy scratches.

- Milan Hejduk skated again this morning with the team, but he will miss his fifth straight contest tonight with a torso injury.

- Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is expected to get the start in net for the Avalanche. He made 50 saves last game versus Edmonton on Feb. 16, the second-highest total in Avalanche history (Patrick Roy, 51, Dec. 10, 1997 at Toronto).

- PA Parenteau has a six-game point streak (2g/8a), longest of his NHL career. Parenteau's six-game streak is also the longest by an Avalanche player this season. In fact, only one Colorado player had a scoring streak of this length a year ago, Gabriel Landeskog, who tallied a point in six consecutive games from Feb. 17-27, 2012. Parenteau also has a four-game assist streak going (6a), which ties his career best.

- Ryan O’Reilly has goals in back-to-back games (2g) and points in three straight contests (2g/2a). After going scoreless in his first two games this year, he now has four points in his last three contests.

- John Mitchell has a three-game point streak (2g/1a), tying his season and career high. It’s his second three-game scoring streak of the season and fifth of his NHL career.

- All-time, the Avalanche/Nordiques are 68-64-8-4 against the Oilers, their second-most wins versus any opponent (69 vs. Carolina/Hartford). Since moving to Denver, the Avs are 56-34-6-4 against Edmonton, their most wins against a single opponent since the franchise relocated.

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