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Oilers, Avalanche jockeying for playoff positioning

by Adam Schwartz /
The Oilers and the Avalanche, who are both vying for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, clash in a Northwest Division battle (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN) in one of six Friday night games in the NHL.

Prior to the Edmonton-Colorado game, the Devils play their fourth game of a six-game road trip in Columbus; the Ducks begin a five-game road trip in Pittsburgh; the Thrashers look to avoid losing five of six games when they face off against the Maple Leafs; the Flyers play the second of two games in Florida when they face the Panthers; and the Rangers visit the Blackhawks in an Original Six matchup.

Here's what to watch:

* Devils left wing Patrik Elias, who is tied for the team lead with 50 points, has had multiple-point games in four of his last six games, including a two-assist game Tuesday in New Jersey's 5-3 victory against the Canucks. Elias, who plays alongside Dainius Zubrus and Brian Gionta, holds the franchise record with 395 assists.

* Columbus right wing Jakub Voracek, who is tied for second among the NHL's rookies with 15 assists, has four assists and five points in his last three games, including a three-assist game Saturday in the Blue Jackets 4-2 win against the Wild. Voracek, drafted No. 7 in the 2007 Entry Draft, is averaging just 12:14 of ice time, but has played at least 14 minutes in three of his last four games.

* Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, who has 15 more points than any other Anaheim player, has 9 assists and 11 points during his current seven-game point streak. Getzlaf, who had a goal and two assists Wednesday in Anaheim's 4-3 loss to Detroit, has 24 power-play points.

* Pittsburgh left wing Matt Cooke, who has had more than 20 assists just once in his career, has 11 assists in 41 games and is on pace to finish the season with 20 assists. Cooke, who is known as an agitator, is second on the team with 61 penalty minutes.

* The Thrashers, who have the second-fewest points in the League with 33, have scored the most road power-play goals in the Southeast Division with 23. Atlanta, which has an 11-7-2 record when scoring first, has a 3-18-3 record when allowing the first goal.

* Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who leads the Panthers with an average ice time of 27:29 per game, has a minus-9 rating in 22 Florida losses, but has a plus-13 rating in 20 Panthers wins. Bouwmeester, who idolized Steve Yzerman growing up, has two goals and two assists in his last four games.

* Rangers right wing Nikolai Zherdev, who is tied for third on the team with 12 goals, has no goals in his last nine games. Zherdev, who is playing with Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros, is the only Ranger with a plus rating (plus-6) and at least 20 points (37).

* Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who is paired with Paul Mara, leads the team with a plus-7 rating. Staal, who averaged 18:48 of ice time last season and is averaging 20:10 this season, had eight assists and 10 points in 80 games last season, but already has six assists and seven points in 45 games this season.

* Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell, who leads Blackhawks defensemen with 29 points, has 10 assists and 11 points in 19 career games against the Rangers, including an assist in the club's prior meeting this season. Campbell, who is playing for his third team in two seasons, has just six penalty minutes.

* The Blackhawks, who are in fourth place in the Western Conference with 55 points, have a 5-4-7 record in one-goal games, but have a 13-3 record in three-goal games. Chicago, which has lost seven of 11 overtime games, has a 19-1-3 record when entering the third period with the lead.

* Colorado left wing Ryan Smyth, who has represented Canada at seven World Championships; two Olympics and a World Junior Championship, leads the Avalanche with 32 points. Smyth, who is a goal shy of 300 career NHL goals, has three goals and three assists in his last four games.

* The Avalanche, who have made the playoffs in 12 of their last 13 seasons dating to their days as the Quebec Nordiques, are in last place in the Northwest Division with 45 points. Colorado, which has won all 15 games in which it has had the lead entering the third period, has a 1-10 record when trailing after the first period.

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