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Rested Avalanche begin Canadian trip in Edmonton

by Matthew Mankiewich

AVALANCHE (19-6-0) at OILERS (9-18-2)


Last 10: Colorado 6-4-0, Edmonton 5-5-0

Season Series: The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers play the first of three games. Last season, the Oilers took four of five games with the lone Avalanche win coming on Feb. 3, a 3-1 home victory.

Big Story: The Avalanche have been healing up and making the most of a four-day break in the schedule. They begin a trip through Western Canada before returning home next Tuesday, part of an 11-game marathon (seven on the road) leading up to the Christmas break. Colorado is 5-1-0 since dropping three in a row midway through November. The Oilers have been hot and cold, alternating wins and losses since the Chicago Blackhawks stopped a three-game winning streak this past Monday, but a 6-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday raised concern with the coaching staff.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Coach Patrick Roy spent the past couple of days lamenting the potential loss of momentum in the four-day break, but his players welcomed it. Paul Stastny, who returned to the lineup Saturday after sitting out two games with back spasms, wasn't complaining.

"For me, I think, for other guys who have nagging injuries, I think it's good to have the four days and get healthy again because now we start traveling a lot and your body doesn't heal up as quickly, you're not in the comfort of your own bed," Stastny said after practice Wednesday. "I think it was a good, needed rest, but now it's time to put it in overdrive."

Oilers: In the aftermath of the one-sided game Tuesday, coach Dallas Eakins decided to go back to basics, stressing communication during a pre-practice video session Wednesday.

"My words can hit you faster than my feet can or a puck can," Eakins said. "Let's say you have the puck and I'm wide open and you're looking me in the eyes. If I yell out your name, it helps focus you. I believe in that.

"It's another habit our team doesn't have. So we went out there in practice, I get out there, and they fall back into it. They forget about it that fast.

"My message at the end of practice was, 'Guys, we just spoke about this and all I heard was skates, skating, pucks and shots. Yell the guy's name. Communicate on the ice.' That's your first line of offense, it's your first line of defense, it's communication. That's the simplest part of it and it's the most effective part of the game."

Who's hot: Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog has four points in the past two games after a three-game drought. Nathan MacKinnon has goals in back-to-back games … Oilers forward David Perron scored both goals Tuesday and has a three-game point streak, as does Ales Hemsky.

Injury report: Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (groin) should be available to play Thursday, but defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) and Alex Tanguay (knee) remain on injured reserve … Oilers forward Boyd Gordon (shoulder) has missed two games and remains doubtful for Thursday. Goalies Ilya Bryzgalov (possible concussion) and Richard Bachman (lower body), defenseman Philip Larsen (back) and forward Tyler Pitlick (knee) are out.

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