The Avalanche will host the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center on Saturday night in a contest that opens a crucial four-game homestand for Colorado prior to the Olympic break.
While Colorado has hit a few bumps in the road lately, losing four of its last five, the club has experienced plenty of success while playing at home this season. The Avs have won four of their last six contests at Pepsi Center and hold a 16-8-2 overall record on home ice.
Those are encouraging signs for a team that needs minor adjustments – not a major overhaul – to get back to its winning ways.
“There are things that we know we can fix,” said Avalanche assistant captain Paul Stastny
. “I guess that’s a positive, because we know what we need to do to get better as a team and as individuals. But at the same time we’ve got to turn it around. We’ve been slipping a little bit in our game and it’s showing in the standings.”
The Avs will also host St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix on the homestand before finishing up the February portion of their schedule with a contest in Los Angeles prior to the Olympic break.
During Friday’s practice, T.J. Galiardi skated on a line with Paul Stastny
and Chris Stewart in what Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco
said was an effort to “just change it up and give the players a different look.”
Galiardi took the left wing spot that has been regularly occupied by Wojtek Wolski for a large chunk of the season.
“That line lately just wasn’t clicking the way it was before when it was having some success,” said Sacco. “It never hurts to change things up a little bit and give the guys a fresh look.”
Wolski moved to a line centered by Matt Duchene
, with rookie forward Brandon Yip on the right wing. Meanwhile, Ryan O’Reilly centered a line that included Cody McLeod
and Marek Svatos.
In other news from practice Sacco said that Craig Anderson will make his 12th consecutive start in goal tomorrow. The head coach also hinted that defenseman Ruslan Salei could make his return to the lineup in the near future.
Salei, who is slated to represent his native Belarus at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, has been seeing a steadily increasing workload in practice over the past few weeks. The blueliner is hoping to play in a handful of contests before joining the Belarus National Team.
“Hopefully he’ll be cleared sometime next week, and then we’ll see from there,” said Sacco.Ricci To Be Honored
Former Avalanche forward Mike Ricci will be honored by the Avalanche Alumni Association prior to Saturday’s game. Ricci, a fan favorite during his time in Denver, will become the ninth player honored by the Avalanche Alumni Association this season.
Click here for more on Ricci’s career and the festivities planned for Saturday evening
.The Other Side
The Oilers’ struggles have been well-documented this season, although they have been playing better as of late. After going winless during the month of January and dropping 13 consecutive contests overall, Edmonton won its first two games in February before falling to Minnesota, 4-2, on Thursday evening to open a five-game road trip.
Edmonton has been hit hard by injuries this year, having already lost over 300 man games. Some of the club’s current key injuries include those to defensemen Ladislav Smid (concussion), Sheldon Souray (hand) and Steve Staios (concussion), forward Ales Hemsky (shoulder) and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (back). Smid has resumed skating recently after suffering the head injury, but he remains day-to-day at this point.