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Avs go for second Alberta sweep in Edmonton

by John Kreiser /

AVALANCHE (13-5-3) at OILERS (8-10-3)

Last 10 -- Avalanche 5-4-1; Oilers 2-6-2

Season series -- The teams are meeting for the third time this season. The road team won the first two, with the Avs winning 2-0 at Rexall Place on Oct. 27 and the Oilers returning the favor with a 5-3 win at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 8.

Big story -- Someone obviously has forgotten to tell the Avalanche they're supposed to fold up after a fast start. They rebounded from a horrible performance in an 8-2 home loss to Vancouver on Saturday by beating the Flames 3-2 in Calgary on Tuesday -- their second win in as many visits to the Pengrowth Saddledome this season.

The Oilers have struggled after a good start. They haven't won since beating the Avs in Denver 10 days ago, and that's the only time this month they've scored more than three goals. They come home after a 1-2-2 trip that ended with a 3-2 shootout loss at Columbus on Monday.

Team Scope:

Avalanche -- The Avs continue to tempt fate -- they've been outshot almost every night, and often by double-digits -- yet they continue to refuse to fold. The win over Calgary was a perfect example: Calgary outshot the Avs 36-24, but Colorado went home with a 3-2 win thanks to hard work and the play of Craig Anderson, who made 34 saves and has started every game but one for Colorado this season.

The Avs also showed no after-effects from the Vancouver blowout.

"We knew we had to come out and play a simple game," defenseman Brett Clark said after the win in Calgary. "We had to take it to them right from the start. It was a must-win. We came out flying and everybody stepped up."

Oilers -- The Oilers are getting their money's worth out of Nikolai Khabibulin, who signed a four-year deal as a free agent this summer. The 36-year-old has started 18 of the Oilers' 21 games, going 7-9-2 while facing 602 shots, an average of 34.4 per game.

Khabibulin is second in the NHL with 547 saves and owns a .909 save percentage, though his goals-against average is 3.03.

Who's hot -- Dustin Penner, enjoying the best of his three seasons in Edmonton, has three goals in his last five games and 12 for the season. … Marek Svatos has scored goals in four of Colorado's last six games. Two of those were game-winners, including his goal at Calgary.

Injury report -- Colorado played Tuesday without injured defensemen John-Michael Liles (shoulder) and Ruslan Salei (back). Forward T.S. Galiardi, who suffered an ankle injury three weeks ago, also missed the game. … Edmonton is without defenseman Denis Grebeshkov (knee) and center Fernando Pisani (ulcerative colitis) are out. Center Sam Gagner sat out Monday's loss at Columbus with what the team described as a lower-body injury, and the Oilers opted not to dress Robert Nilsson, who's been suffering from concussion symptoms.

Stat pack -- The Avs are playing their fourth set of back-to-backs; they've swept the first three, including one in Alberta last month. … The Oilers' success has depended largely on scoring first. When they open the scoring, they are 7-2-2; when they don't, they're just 1-8-1.

Puck drop -- The Avs continue to defy everyone who thought their early-season run was a mirage. A win tonight would give Colorado back-to-back sweeps in Alberta this season. The Oilers have to right the ship soon or face the prospect of another non-playoff season.

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