LINEUP UPDATE (11:36 AM): Ales Hemsky
, Marty Reasoner and Tom Gilbert each took the morning skate and all three declared themselves ready to go for tonight. Head coach Craig MacTavish remarked that the players will take the pre-game warmup and be gametime decisions.
The Edmonton Oilers meet the Colorado Avalanche for the second time in as many games tonight at Rexall Place.
On Wednesday when these two teams met the Avalanche got off to a good start scoring 1:29 into the game. They continued to roll from there en route to a 5-1 victory. Patrick Thoresen scored the lone goal for Edmonton to spoil Peter Budajs shutout bid.
"When you're at a decided skill disadvantage you want to make sure you play a smart game and we started off not playing that way," remarked Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish after the game. "Our biggest weakness was our inability to defend. I don't think we got a stick on a puck below the goal line tonight. We vacated the dangerous areas of the ice and it was disappointing on a lot of fronts. I'm just going to leave it at that."
The good news is the team gets another crack at the Avs tonight to redeem themselves from that loss. The bad news is, Colorado is still the hottest team in the league.
The Avalanche is now 9-0-1 in its last 10 games as they continue to nip at the heels of the eighth-place Calgary Flames. They are six points back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand on the Flames.
"These are the kind of games you worry about because if you drop them, then you know you really don't have a chance of making the playoffs," said Avs forward Tyler Arnason, who had three assists on the night. "We played the game we had to play. We didn't give them a lot of chances in the first two periods, and we buried ours."
From the Christmas break until late February, Colorado was two games under .500 and looked well on their way to missing the playoffs for the first time since moving to Denver in 1995 but their recent hot streak has put them right in the middle of the playoff picture.
However, with Calgary's win over Nashville last night, the Oilers have an opportunity to give Colorado's postseason hopes a crippling blow with a win this evening.
OILERS TO WATCH: Patrick Thoresen was the Oilers best player by far on Wednesday night versus the Avalanche. Not only did he score Edmontons only goal of the night – his third of the season – he also led all Oilers forwards in icetime at 21:49. Thoresen fired five shots on net and was +1 on the evening. At +2 on the season, Thoresen is one of only three Oilers forwards who have played 40 or more games and have a greater than even plus/minus Petr Sykora remains Edmontons active scoring leader with 20 goals and 50 points. Hes the only Oiler on the teams current roster with 20 goals.
AVALANCHE TO WATCH: Always dangerous, Avalanche captain Joe Sakic is the offensive leader of this Colorado club. In 72 games, he has scored 30 goals and added 56 assists for 86 points Milan Hejduk is the only other Avalanche skater with 30 goals. Hejduk also leads all Colorado forwards in plus/minus at +11 Ken Klee is the only other Colorado skater with double digit plus/minus at +15 Newcomer Jeff Finger has been solid on defence since joining the club recently. In 13 games, his plus/minus is +7 with a goal and two assists.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton –Jarret Stoll (concussion) is out. Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Marty Reasoner (shoulder) is questionable. Steve Staios (knee) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is out. Mathieu Roy (concussion) is out. Tom Gilbert (concussion) is out. Jan Hejda (shoulder) is out. Ales Hemsky
(shoulder) is questionable. Petr Nedved (knee) is out; Colorado – Patrice Brisebois (back) is out. Jordan Leopold (wrist) is out. Karlis Skrastins (knee) is out. Pierre Turgeon (calf) is out.
FAST FACTS: Thoresens goal last game was his first in 53 games for the Oilers. He last scored on October 17 vs. Vancouver. His goal was shorthanded, the sixth of the season for Edmonton and third this month Edmonton has the seventh-best penalty kill in the league at 84.6%. They are tied for 25th in the league in penalty minutes per game at 15.9... Colorado has the league's fourth-best power play at 21.2%.