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Oilers start road trip in Colorado

by Deborah Francisco

OILERS (22-35-8) AT AVALANCHE (26-30-8)


Last 10 -- Edmonton 6-4-0; Colorado 1-7-2

Season series -- The Northwest Division rivals are meeting for the fourth time this season. Edmonton has won two of the first three contests, a 3-2 decision on Nov. 25 and a 5-1 victory on Feb. 23. Colorado's lone victory came in a 4-3 shootout win on Dec. 30. Milan Hejduk notched the shootout winner in that contest. Edmonton scored three power-play goals in the second period of their last meeting to win in Denver.

Big story -- The Oilers begin a five-game road trip on Saturday night, but the season is over for rookie Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in last June's Entry Draft. Hall, who had the game-winner against Colorado in the Nov. 25 win, is gone for the season with a high ankle sprain.

Team Scope:

Oilers -- The Oilers are trying for their third consecutive win, but they've now seen their top three scorers taken away this week. Dustin Penner was traded to Los Angeles on Monday and Ales Hemsky went down with an injury on Tuesday before Hall was hurt in Thursday's 4-2 win against Columbus.

Before he was hurt, Hall notched a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal in the first period, and an assist in the second. He was hurt in a fight with Columbus' Derek Dorsett -- Hall fell to the ice awkwardly and twisted his left ankle.

"We drafted character, so we definitely expect character to show up and it did," coach Tom Renney said of Hall after the game. "Good for him. Scraps happen. He had enough of the liberties."

Avalanche -- While the Avs are enduring one of the worst stretches in franchise history, winning just once their last 14 games, they're still playing hard. Colorado took red-hot San Jose to a shootout on Tuesday before losing 2-1, the Avs' third one-goal loss in a row.

"The way we've been playing the last few games, I think it's been a positive for us" center Paul Stastny said. "It's been like that for a while. You can't hang your head. I think you just have to stay positive and work hard to get out of it."

Who's hot  -- Edmonton's Jordan Eberle has 4 points in his last five games, including a two-point game on Feb. 23 against the Avalanche. … Erik Johnson has four points in six games as an Av after he was acquired from St. Louis. Johnson scored the lone goal at San Jose.

Injury report -- In addition to Hall and Hemsky, defenseman Theo Peckham is day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (eye infection) and defensemen Taylor Chorney (knee) and Ryan Whitney (ankle) are all on injured reserve, though Khabibulin is just about ready to return. … Colorado captain Adam Foote is expected to return on Saturday after missing the last 11 games with a leg injury.

Stat pack -- Hall and Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins are the only players to notch both a Gordie Howe hat trick and a traditional hat trick this season.

Puck drop -- In the last meeting between these two teams, Colorado blueliner Ryan O'Byrne left the game just four minutes in after Hall's skate swiped O'Byrne's cheek in an awkward play behind the Colorado net. O'Byrne, despite bleeding profusely, finished his shift before skating back to the bench 45 seconds later. He was whisked to a local hospital where he received 100 stitches to close the wound, but O'Byrne returned to the ice this week and is practicing with a full face shield.

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