The first-place and last-place teams in the Northwest Division meet tonight in Denver as the Edmonton Oilers face the Colorado Avalanche but with only four points separating first from fifth, the game has huge implications.
Last time these two teams met, the Avalanche walked all over the Oilers to the tune of 7-3. Edmonton won the prior two meetings, both in Denver.
The Oilers defeated Minnesota last night 3-1 to move two points ahead of the Wild and into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division, snapping a two-game losing streak in the process.
Colorado dropped four straight in mid-November to fall out of the playoff picture but they're slowly crawling back in, having won each of their last two games.
Edmonton has the added challenge of playing a game on back-to-back nights after some lengthy overnight travel. The team arrived in Denver at 2:30 a.m. this morning.
OILERS TO WATCH: Petr Sykora has done well in his career against the Avalanche, averaging almost a point per game with 25 points in 26 games played. This season he has three points (two goals) in three games against the Avs... Jarret Stoll has continued his outstanding play of late. With a goal and an assist last night he now has points in six straight games (two goals, six assists)... Jussi Markkanen could get the call tonight in net for the Oilers. Markkanen's last start was a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on December 6.
AVALANCHE TO WATCH: Peter Budaj will likely get the start tonight after having won each of his last two starts. With a 2.38 GAA and .913 SPCT his numbers have been better than Jose Theodore this season (3.06/.903). Budaj has never won three consecutive starts in his career... Ken Klee has only eight points this season but five have been against the Oilers... Joe Sakic has picked up at least a goal in each of his last four games. Since returning from injury, Pierre Turgeon has three goals and an assist in four games.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton - Ales Hemsky
(shoulder) is questionable. Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Ryan Smyth
(thumb) is out; Colorado - Jordan Leopold (groin) is out. Brad May (shoulder) is out.
FAST FACTS: If there ever was a game that the Oilers truly miss Ryan Smyth
it might be tonight. Smyth had five goals in the previous three meetings between these teams this season... The last three times that the Oilers played the second game of a back-to-back in Denver they have a record of 2-1-0 with a shootout win... Colorado has not won three games in a row this season and will attempt to do so tonight. The Avs are 0-4-0 in that situation.
NEXT GAME: The Oilers don't play again until Tuesday night when they meet these same Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place. It will be the last home game for the Oilers before the Christmas break. Game time is 7:00 p.m. MST.