DENVER - David Jones treats every shift like it's his final one before being sent back down to the minors.
With basically an all-star lineup on the bench trying to get healthy, the Avalanche rookie realizes his time in the NHL could be limited. But he's making a strong case to stay around.
Jones scored his second career goal, helping the Avalanche move into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division with a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
"Look at the guys that are out of our lineup - I'm just trying to do my best to stay here," said Jones, who has two goals and two assists in two games. "Every shift up here is a blessing. Hopefully, there's a spot up here for me. We have such a good team, though, you never know when your chance will be up."
The banged-up Avalanche are currently without forwards Peter Forsberg (groin) and Ryan Smyth (concussion, separated shoulder), and defencemen Jordan Leopold (head injury) and Adam Foote (hip).
In spite of the injuries, Colorado has won eight of nine, including five straight at home. The Avalanche own the division lead outright for the first time since Dec. 18.
The Avalanche seem to have a different player step up each night. Jaroslav Hlinka and Tyler Arnason each had a goal and an assist, and Jeff Finger and Wojtek Wolski contributed goals.
"The lines were all contributing," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "I liked every aspect of our game."
Peter Budaj had a relatively light night, stopping 23 shots. He started over Jose Theodore thanks to his stellar record against the Oilers. Budaj is 5-0 this season and 9-1-2 in 12 career appearances against Edmonton.
"You don't want to take anything away from Edmonton, but I think we were a better team," Budaj said. "Tremendous effort by everybody. It was a big win."
The Oilers, who had won three straight overtime games, are 1-5 against Colorado this season with two games left to play.
"We have not played well in this building," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "We looked sluggish, lethargic. When you have that problem, you have to rely on your smarts and play around your lack of energy. We made mistakes we haven't been making."
Joe Sakic had an assist on Arnason's power-play goal in the second period, leaving him two shy of becoming only the 11th NHL player with 1,000 career assists.
Hlinka and Arnason scored early in the second, giving Colorado a 3-0 lead and chasing Mathieu Garon from the game just 4:26 into the period. He had 11 saves before giving way to Dwayne Roloson.
Hlinka stole the puck near the blue line and beat Garon with a wrist shot 18 seconds into the second period.
It was the quickest goal to start a period this season for the Avalanche, eclipsing Smyth's mark of 19 seconds on Dec. 1 at Los Angeles.
"Jaroslav played great," forward Ian Laperriere said. "Same with David. He looked good."
That's because he's playing hungry. Jones was called up from Lake Erie of the AHL for a third stint on Feb. 15, and has slowly received more ice time. Jones was paired with Sakic and Andrew Brunette on Thursday night.
"That certainly helps," Jones said with a grin. "You've got to play every shift like it's your last if you want to stay here."
Laperriere appreciates that approach from a rookie.
"Sometimes, kids today feel comfortable," said Laperriere, who had his 15th assist on Wolski's breakaway goal late in the second period. "He's one of those guys who comes hard every practice and every game. He doesn't know where he's going to be tomorrow. He always has that pressure, and it brings out the best in him."
Notes: Oilers F Andrew Cogliano will send his stick to the Hockey Hall of Fame after becoming the first NHL player to score an overtime goal in three straight games. The rookie will also donate his gloves at the end of the season. ... Edmonton D Joni Pitkanen was a scratch due to an illness. ... Colorado is 17-2-2 in March the last two seasons. The team set a franchise record with 11 wins last March. ... Arnason has four goals and three assists against the Oilers this season. ... Sam Gagner scored Edmonton's lone goal in the second period, his ninth of the season.