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Kassian returns, looks to provide spark for Oilers

Edmonton, which has lost six of seven, hosts Colorado

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

AVALANCHE (30-26-4) at OILERS (22-31-6)

TV: 10 p.m. ET; ALT, CBC, SN, NHL.TV

EDMONTON - Forward Zack Kassian will return to the Edmonton Oilers' lineup against the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place on Saturday after missing two games with the flu. 

Kassian has two goals and two assists in 13 games for Edmonton. 

The Oilers (22-31-6) acquired Kassian, 25, in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 28 for goaltender Ben Scrivens.  

"[The flu] just needed to take its course and I'm happy to be feeling better," Kassian said. "I want to get back in and help our line be a physical line, get in on the forecheck, create space and have some [offensive] zone time. We need to get good cycles going and get shots on net, but at the same time, we need to be good defensively." 

Kassian will return to his regular spot on the Oilers' third line with center Mark Letestu and right wing Nail Yakupov.  

Edmonton lost 5-3 against the Anaheim Ducks and 5-2 against the Minnesota Wild with Kassian out of the lineup. 

"I didn't even watch the one game [Anaheim] I just laid home in bed and I didn't even watch it," Kassian said. "But I'm excited to back." 

The Oilers are on a three-game losing streak and have lost six of their past seven games (1-5-1). 
Edmonton hopes Kassian can provide a physical presence against the Avalanche (30-26-4), which has been missing with he and defenseman Eric Gryba out of the lineup. 

"We were hoping we were getting a strong, physical forward, who is accustomed to playing that way and has got things going in his personal life and I think we've got that," Oilers coach McLellan said of Kassian. "He's had a little bit of a setback right now because of the flu, but he'll be back in the lineup and is ready to go. If you look at his body of work since he's been here, there have been a lot more positive nights than negative ones." 

Kassian missed the first three months of the season when he was in the NHL's substance abuse program. 
He was selected 13th by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2009 NHL Draft and traded to the Vancouver Canucks during the 2011-12 season. 

On July 1, 2015, Kassian was traded to the Canadiens. 

"We still have to let him evolve as a player," McLellan said. "He hasn't played a lot of hockey this year because of his personal life. I've seen him play enough in the past where he's had an impactful game, offensively, defensively and physically." 

The Oilers lost 5-1 on Dec. 19, in their first game against Colorado. 

The Avalanche won three of their past four games and defeated the Canadiens 3-2 on Wednesday. Colorado did not have a morning skate Saturday. 

Right wing Jarome Iginla, 38, had two goals in the win against Montreal and has 17 goals and 34 points in 60 games. In 95 career games against the Oilers, Iginla has 38 goals and 88 points. 
"If you look at his career, to play as long as he has and still be as productive as he is, is because he's a professional, he takes care of himself and is passionate about his craft," McLellan said. "He's doing the right things away from the rink. I saw it with Nick Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Joe Thornton, those type of guys. They have such a passion for the game that they take care of themselves 24/7 so they can do what they love." 

Goaltender Cam Talbot will start for Edmonton; Calvin Pickard is expected to start for Colorado. 

Here are the projected lineups: 

Mikhail Grigorenko - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla 
Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau  
Alex Tanguay - Nathan Mackinnon - Jack Skille  
Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Andreas Martinsen  
Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson  
Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie  
Chris Bigras - Andrew Bodnarchuk  
Calvin Pickard 

Semyon Varlamov  

Injured: Ben Street (chest), Jesse Winchester (concussion-like symptoms), Brad Stuart (back). 
Scratched: Zach Redmond, Chris Wagner  
Benoit Pouliot - Connor McDavid - Jordan Eberle  
Taylor Hall - Leon Draisaitl - Teddy Purcell  
Zack Kassian - Mark Letestu - Nail Yakupov 
Iiro Pakarinen - Matt Hendricks - Lauri Korpikoski  
Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne  
Darnell Nurse - Justin Schultz  
Brandon Davidson - Nikita Nikitin   
Cam Talbot 

Anders Nilsson  

Injured: Oscar Klefbom (lower body), Andrew Ference (hip), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand), Eric Gryba (knee). 
Scratched: Anton Lander, Adam Clendening  
Status report: Nikitin will play his first game since being recalled from Bakersfield of the AHL on Wednesday. Nikitin has one assist in seven games with the Oilers this season … Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra was sent to San Antonio of the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Berra has not played since Dec. 29 because of an ankle injury. 

Who's hot: Iginla has four goals and two assists in his past four games. … Johnson has two goals in his past two games. … McDavid has three goals and four assists in his past four games. … Eberle has three goals and three assists in his past four games.


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