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Pouliot returns for Oilers against Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

OILERS (8-22-8) at AVALANCHE (14-15-8)

TV: SNW, ALT

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers will have different looks for different reasons when they play at Pepsi Center on Friday.

The Avalanche (14-15-8) are changing line combinations in an attempt to help center Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon end scoring slumps.

The Oilers (8-22-8) traded left wing David Perron to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday in exchange for center Rob Klinkhammer and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. They have lost defenseman Keith Aulie to a two-game suspension; left wing Benoit Pouliot will return after recovering from a broken foot; and center Anton Lander will play after being recalled from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.

"It's a transition we can make," Oilers interim coach Todd Nelson said of losing Perron and adding Pouliot. "We add a quality forward to our lineup tonight with experience, so certainly he can help. We'll also get a good look at Anton tonight."

Pouliot, who has three goals and five assists in 20 games, missed 18 games after getting injured Nov. 21 against the New Jersey Devils. He'll skate on a line with Derek Roy and Teddy Purcell.

"I feel good," Pouliot said. "It's going to be fun. I just can't wait to get back. It's been a long month, month and a half. I skated in Edmonton and a little bit in Calgary (on Wednesday) and I felt good. Coming here is a little different (because of the altitude), it's a little tougher to breathe, but I'll see how I feel out there. I'm ready to go."

Duchene, who has gone eight games without a goal, will skate with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and right wing Daniel Briere. MacKinnon, who won the Calder Trophy last season, has one goal in the past 19 games. He'll be on a line with left wing Maxime Talbot and center John Mitchell.

"We just think changing the mix will help both of them," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We'll try it and see how it goes."

Duchene, who has 10 goals, has had 15 shots on goal since he scored Dec. 11 against the Winnipeg Jets.

"For most of the year I've been very happy with my game," he said. "The last 10 games I probably played two games that I was happy with. I went through this last year. Every season you have peaks and valleys, and it's what you learn in those valleys that's important. Every time the lines get switched everyone hopes the combinations are what's going to work the best for us."

Here are the projected lineups:

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot - Derek Roy - Teddy Purcell

Nail Yakupov - Anton Lander - Matt Fraser

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Luke Gazdic

Oscar Klefbom - Mark Fayne

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Nikita Nikitin - Justin Schultz

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Leon Draisaitl

Injured: Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen)

Suspended: Keith Aulie

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Daniel Briere

Alex Tanguay - Ryan O'Reilly - Jarome Iginla

Maxime Talbot - John Mitchell - Nathan MacKinnon

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Borna Rendulic

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart - Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Scratched: Zach Redmond

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Ben Street (hand), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Aulie will serve the first game of a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Calgary Flames forward Matt Stajan on Wednesday. … Draisaitl, the Oilers' first-round pick (No. 3) in the 2014 NHL Draft, has played in 37 games and will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season. If he plays in 40 games, this season would count as his first in the League under terms of the collective bargaining agreement. A player becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency after seven seasons. Nelson said it was a management decision to sit out Draisaitl.

Who's hot: Nugent-Hopkins has four goals and one assist in the past seven games. … Tanguay has three goals and three assists in six games.

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