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Oilers, Avalanche look to finish strong

by Deborah Francisco

OILERS (16-19-7) at AVALANCHE (14-22-7)


Last 10: Edmonton 4-6-0, Colorado 3-4-3

Season series: It's the fifth and final game between these Northwest Division rivals. The Edmonton Oilers lead the season series 3-1-0, including a 4-0 shutout in their last meeting on March 12 in Denver.

Big story: Edmonton is looking to snap a six-game winless streak as they host the Avalanche in a meeting of two teams looking toward next season.

Team Scope:

Oilers: The Oilers won five straight games and were in seventh place in the Western Conference before dropping a season-high six straight games, including a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The Oilers have been outscored 22-7 in that span and have been booed at home in losses to Calgary and Minnesota.

"We have six games remaining and we need to grab something positive from what is left here and be a team that shows character in this challenge," coach Ralph Krueger said. "We will work hard to make these games valuable."

Avalanche: With just five regular-season games remaining, Colorado is hoping to finish strong as it looks for its third win in five games. Colorado may be able to bounce back with the expected return from injury of goalie Semyon Varlamov and forward Milan Hejduk.

Colorado nearly defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night after coming from behind and taking the lead in the third period but the Blue Jackets, who are fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west, tied the score at the 18:33 mark of the third period to force overtime. Columbus proceeded to edge the Avalanche 4-3 in overtime.

Cody McLeod scored twice in that game, matching his career high.

"Especially when we scored to make it 3-2, and we give up a goal a couple shifts after," McLeod said. "We can't do that. That's kind of what we've been doing all year, and we've got to get better at that, that's for sure."

Who's hot: Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov had a goal and an assist against the Wild and has two goals and five points in Edmonton's past five games. ... PA Parenteau continues to lead Colorado in points (40) including three in his past four games.

Injury report: Oilers forward Ales Hemsky is out as he tries to recover from a broken foot. Forward Lennart Petrell suffered a leg injury Tuesday and is expected to miss a week. ... Varlamov has missed six games with a hip injury but he and Hejduk (shoulder) are expected to return. Defenseman Erik Johnson has been out with a hand injury and is questionable for Friday.

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