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Oilers take another shot at Avs

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

The race for top spot continues in the tight Northwest Division. Tonights game features both the first and last place team in the division but that description alone is misleading since only two points separate the first-place Oilers and the fifth-place Avalanche.

Edmonton won the first two meetings of the season between these clubs by scores of 4-3 and 2-1 respectively but the Avalanche responded by winning the two most recent encounters. Colorado defeated the Oilers 7-3 on November 30 and this past Friday they came out on top 4-1.

Edmonton dropped three of four games last week, with their only win coming in their only home game – a 3-1 triumph over the Minnesota Wild last Thursday.

OILERS TO WATCH: Jarret Stoll had his six-game scoring streak snapped Friday against the Avalanche but his strong play during the streak (eight points in six games) was enough to vault him into second in team scoring ahead of the injured Ryan Smyth Raffi Torres has also played well of late with four goals and eight assists for 12 points in his last 13 games. He has moved into a tie for fourth in team scoring Ales Hemsky returned to the lineup on Friday, playing 15:30 of ice time. Hemsky had missed nine games with a shoulder injury.

AVALANCHE TO WATCH: Joe Sakic continues to be the offensive leader for the Avalanche. Through 33 games, Sakic leads the Avs in goals (14), assists (23) and points (37) Peter Budaj has clearly taken over the role of number one goaltender from incumbent Jose Theodore. Budaj has won each of his last three starts, which is a career high. He also has a 2.28 goals-against average and .915 save percentage both decidedly better than Jose Theodores 3.01 GAA and .903 SPCT.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Ryan Smyth (thumb) is questionable; Colorado – Jordan Leopold (groin) is out. Brad May (shoulder) is out.

FAST FACTS: Budaj has won each of his last three starts, which is the longest winning streak of his career. During that span, he has allowed only four goals and has a .945 save percentage stopping 69 of 73 shots Sakic had season-high five-game point streak snapped in Sundays 2-1 loss to Chicago. He had 11 points in those five games and four of those games were multi-point efforts. He is the only player in the Western Conference to lead his team in goals, assists and points.

The Oilers finished off a string of three games in four nights with a one-game road trip to Denver, where they fell 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche. The loss extended Edmonton's road losing streak to three games (0-3-0; Nov. 10-15). Marc-Antoine Pouliot opened the scoring for the Oilers, netting his first goal of the season at 15:31 of the first period. With the goal, Pouliot has scored both of his points to dte this season against the Avalanche as he had an assist vs the Avalanche on Nov. 30 at Rexall Place. The Oilers lead was shortlived as Milan Hejduk tied the score at 17:37. Colorado would extend their lead to 3-1 with second period goals by John-Michael Liles (GWG, 2:42) and Wojtek Wolski (10:18). Tyler Arnason rounded out the scoring with his 10th goal of the season at 3:11 of the third period. Arnason added an assist for a two-point game and Avalanche captain Joe Sakic had two assists. Dwayne Roloson allowed all four goals on 16 shots before being relieved by Jussi Markkanen for the third time this season at 4:39 of the final period. Markkanen did not allow a goal and stopped the only shot he faced over the game's final 15:20.
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