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Avs and Oilers try to end slumps

by Deborah Francisco

AVALANCHE (26-36-8) AT OILERS (23-39-9)


Last 10 -- Colorado 0-9-1; Edmonton 3-6-1

Season series -- This is the fifth meeting of six this season between the two Northwest division rivals. Edmonton has won three of the prior contests, including the last two meetings which both by a score of 5-1. Colorado did manage to beat Edmonton 4-3 in a shootout on Dec. 30.

Big story -- Which team will snap its current losing skid? Colorado has dropped 10 in a row, while Edmonton has lost five straight.

Team Scope:

Avalanche -- Colorado has some good news and some bad news going into Saturday night's contest with the Oilers. The bad news is that Colorado has lost 20 of its last 21 games. The good news is that Erik Johnson, who left after blocking a shot in the first period of Thursday night's game with the Flames, is likely to play Saturday night after ex-rays revealed no serious injuries in his ankle. This is good for the depleted Avalanche squad which is without veterans Adam Foote (ankle) and Milan Hejduk (shoulder).

Not only do injuries seem to keep piling up for the Burgundy and Blue, but the losses also keep piling up, and Thursday's loss was anything but hopeful. The Avs allowed two power-play goals in the first period and never caught up in a 5-2 loss at Calgary.

"Obviously, in the last couple of months, things have not gone our way. Our confidence level is not high," Ryan O'Byrne told the Denver Post. "To get down two goals early to an experienced Calgary team that plays very smart defensively and plays a good sound game, it's a long ways to go."

Oilers -- Edmonton dominated play Thursday against Phoenix, but wound up losing 3-1 despite outshooting the Coyotes 36-17.

Magnus Paajarvi scored the lone goal in the third period. Rookies Teemu Hartikainen and Chris Vande Velde made their NHL debuts because five of Edmonton's top seven scorers are sidelined with injuries.

"You could tell that they were proud to be here," coach Tom Renney said of the rookie debuts. "You could tell they wanted badly to contribute, and ... they wanted to do well on behalf of themselves to put out a good showing."

The Oilers hope to carry the effort into the game against the Avs.

"If we come out with the type of effort we had last night and manage the puck well and hopefully have a little more success, for example on our power-play, then I think we've got a real good shot at winning," head coach Tom Renney said.

Who's hot -- Keeping up with the Joneses, Colorado's David Jones has three points in his last four games (1g-2a) while Edmonton's Ryan Jones has two goals in three games.

Injury report -- For Colorado, Ryan Stoa returned on Thursday just two weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy surgery. Foote (ankle) and Hejduk (shoulder) are day to day, and Kyle Cumiskey (upper body), Tomas Fleischmann (blood clots), T.J. Galiardi (forearm), Peter Mueller (concussion) and Kyle Quincey (shoulder) are all out. … In Edmonton, forwards Taylor Hall (ankle), and Sam Gagner (hand) and defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle) are all out for the season while defenseman Taylor Chorney (knee) and forward Ales Hemsky (shoulder) hope to return in a few weeks. Defenseman Theo Peckham is day-to-day with a concussion.

Stat pack -- Colorado is 1-18-2 in its last 21 games; the Avs have split two 10-game losing streaks with a win against St. Louis.

Puck drop -- "Colorado is a good hockey club and they're proud too. They're going to want to win. They're going to look at us the same way we look at them and come after us, so we've got to be ready for that." -Renney.

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