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Colorado Avalanche vs. Edmonton Oilers @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Colorado Avalanche (40-22-13-7) at Edmonton Oilers (36-29-12-5).

TIME: Wednesday, 10 p.m. EDT.

Some teams benefited from the NHL's new monetary structure and some didn't. Both the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers can attest to that.

The Avs and new coach Joel Quenneville will be missing some familiar names, while the Oilers will have some added star power when the teams open their respective seasons at Rexall Place.

Colorado has been one of the more star-laden teams over the past decade, helping it become a powerhouse in the league. The Avalanche won division titles in nine straight seasons before finishing one point behind Vancouver in the Northwest in 2003-04.

With the implementation of a salary cap, Colorado simply couldn't afford to keep all its top players. Defenseman Adam Foote, who spent 13 seasons with the franchise, signed with Columbus, and center Peter Forsberg, arguably the league's most complete player, signed with Philadelphia. Also gone from the 2003-04 team is Paul Kariya, now with Nashville, and Teemu Selanne, who returned to Anaheim.

"For me, when I came to training camp, I turned the page," goaltender David Aebischer said. "You worry about the guys who are here, not the guys that aren't here."

While Colorado had little choice but to let those players go, the usually cost-conscious Oilers were able to acquire star defenseman Chris Pronger from St. Louis and center Michael Peca from the New York Islanders.

Pronger is a former Norris Trophy winner and one of the league's best at his position, while Peca is a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the league's top defensive forward.

Despite his team's losses, Quenneville, hired in July, still has plenty of talent to work with in his first season behind the Avalanche bench.

Captain Joe Sakic, coming off another outstanding season, remains one of the game's best players and leaders, Rob Blake is an elite defenseman at both ends of the ice, and Alex Tanguay was among the league leaders with 54 assists in 2003-04.

Milan Hejduk is also one of the game's best offensive players, but will miss several weeks following knee surgery.

Colorado general manager Pierre Lacroix was busy in the offseason, signing forwards Pierre Turgeon, Andrew Brunette and Brad May, and defenseman Patrice Brisebois.

"I think the teams that have good scouting staffs and manage their teams well, they are still going to be on top," Sakic said. "We have a great general manager and scouting staff here, so we're sure we're still going to be one of the competitive teams in the league."

Aebischer remains Colorado's No. 1 goaltender, looking to improve upon on an impressive 2003-04 season.

Edmonton hopes the additions of Pronger and Peca can help it get back to the postseason after it fell two points shy in 2003-04 despite finishing seven games above .500.

While Peca's offensive production has slowed, he is still regarded as one of the league's best defensive forwards and a captain that other players look to in pressure situations.

Ryan Smyth remains Edmonton's top offensive player and one of the best left wings in the game. He led the team with 23 goals, 36 assists and 59 points in 2003-04.

After the trade of Tommy Salo, Ty Conklin took over as the Oilers' No. 1 goaltender in 2003-04 and will continue in that role this season. Conklin, a standout for Team USA, went 17-14-4 with a 2.42 goals-against average in 38 games in 2003-04.

2003-04 STANDINGS: Avalanche - 100 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division. Oilers - 89 points, 4th place, 12 PB, Northwest Division.

2003-04 TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Hejduk, 35 goals; Sakic and Tanguay, 54 assists; Sakic, 87 points; Peter Worrell, 179 PIM. Oilers - Smyth, 23 goals, 36 assists and 59 points; Georges Laraque, 99 PIM.

2003-04 SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 20.3 percent (74 for 363), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (299 for 357), 16th. Oilers - Power play: 13.0 percent (44 for 338), 29th. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent (283 for 349), 27th.

2003-04 GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (32-19-9, 4 SO, 2.09 GAA); Philippe Sauve (7-7-3, 3.04). Oilers - Conklin (17-14-4, 1, 2.42); Jussi Markkanen (2-2-2, 1.83).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 3-2.

LAST MEETING: March 10, 2004; Avalanche 3-2, OT. At Edmonton, Alberta, Foote, now with Columbus, scored two power-play goals and Sakic had a goal and an assist to lead the Avs.

2003-04 ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 21-8-7-5 on the road; Oilers - 22-12-4-3 at home.

Associated Press
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