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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers vs. Avalanche

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers



News, notes and line combinations from Tuesday's Oilers practice at Rexall Place.





EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers are hoping to bounce back from their 4-1 loss to Winnipeg on Monday night. After gaining standing points in their previous four games, Edmonton was unable to gain traction against the big Jets lineup.

“Winnipeg played a really strong game,” Oilers centre Anton Lander said Tuesday after practice. “They didn’t give us much at all. We had to work for every inch to get the puck going north. Tomorrow’s game is going to be a tough game. I think they’re in a similar situation we are in right now and we want to play for each other and get the wins going so it’s going to be a good game tomorrow.”

The Oilers host the Avalanche on Wednesday evening, hoping to avenge their 2-1 shootout loss in Colorado on January 2.

“(Colorado is) still a real skilled team,” said Oilers defenceman Mark Fayne. They’ve got a ton of firepower and they play with a lot of pressure, a lot like last night in Winnipeg. They pinch up a lot, they don’t give you a lot of time or space out there and I think we struggled with that a bit (against the Jets). Hopefully we can adjust and create some more room.”

Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson expects the Avalanche to come out with intensity.

“We expect a game where both teams are going to play hard. Myself and Patrick (Roy) are going to motivate guys the best way possible to get us playing a fast game,” Nelson said. “I think it’s going to be a fast game tomorrow. Colorado has some high-end skill and they make plays. It’s maybe a bit different than we saw last night, with a heavy team, but they play hard and the last game we played against them was a good hockey team.”


The Oilers didn’t change up the lines at practice on Tuesday, but were short a couple of skaters. Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle remained on the top line. Teddy Purcell, Derek Roy and Nail Yakupov were together as well and Taylor Hall stayed on the third line with Anton Lander and Ryan Miller.

Luke Gazdic (illness) and Matt Fraser (concussion) have been cleared to play and rotated on the wing with Matt Hendricks and Rob Klinkhammer.

“Both Fras and Gaz are healthy and good to go, so we’ll make a determination on the lineup tomorrow morning,” Nelson said Tuesday after practice.

Boyd Gordon, who had his back seize up against Winnipeg, was absent at Tuesday’s practice, as well as Andrew Ference, who suffered an upper body injury.

“Gordo is the same thing I said (Monday) night where his back seized up and he took today off,” Nelson said Tuesday. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. Obviously, at this time of year, we’ve been playing a lot of games and guys need time off and time to rest. As for Andrew Ference, it’s an upper body injury and he’s going through further testing and we’ll find out more tomorrow.”

No word on if either of those two can play against Colorado. If Gordon is unable to go, it is likely Gazdic or Fraser slide in on the fourth line with Hendricks playing centre. If Ference cannot play, Keith Aulie would likely fill in. Ference was paired with Martin Marincin against the Jets.

Ben Scrivens will start in net for the Oilers.


Oscar Klefbom is a young, talented defenceman. But that still makes him a young defencemen. There will be times when the 21-year-old will make mistakes, but the encouraging thing is the way he responds after those moments.

On Monday against Winnipeg, Klefbom’s cross-ice pass was intercepted by Drew Stafford. The Jets forward took it down the left wing and sniped a shot past Scrivens for the 1-0 lead.

“Everybody makes mistakes out there and that was one that Oscar threw it across and got picked off, but he made a nice recovery,” Nelson said. “Unfortunately, they capitalized on it but the thing is that he’s a guy that doesn’t let those things get to him. He parks it and moves on. That’s a good sign of maturity for a young defenceman.”

Klefbom finished the game with an assist, playing 25:16.

“He’s playing a lot of big minutes for us,” Nelson said. “It all comes down to just being more comfortable with your surroundings and feeling comfortable with the game. Oscar skates very well, he’s a big, strong guy, he works the corners well. Last night, against a heavy team like Winnipeg, he’s one guy that you look at that handled it very well because they put us under a lot of pressure. I think just with him playing the minutes that he’s playing, he’s feeling more comfortable and he’s a young guy that’s learning every game. We like his progression and hopefully that continues.”

Klefbom was taken 19th overall in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft.


Players in the Oilers locker room feel a lot closer to their teammates as of late. The team feels they have pulled together, working as one unit to find an identity and some hope heading into next season, even with the playoffs out of reach.

“We want to be a hard-working team, out-work the opponent and that comes from keeping it simple, but when the play is there, the play is there. We’ve got to work hard every single night to create those turnovers or create those chances,” Lander said.

Asked if the mood has been lighter in the locker room and if the players are closer, Lander agreed with that assessment.

“I think that’s fair to say. We’re getting closer. We’ve been in a lot of different moments over the season, a lot ups and downs, and that’s when you can tell if the group is getting together or not. When there are positive things and negative things, I really feel we’re getting closer to each other.” Lander said.

-- Chris Wescott,




AVALANCHE (33-27-12) at OILERS (20-40-13)


Season series:
The Colorado Avalanche received shootout goals from Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay in a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 2.

Avalanche team scope:
Colorado's hopes to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs are fading despite an 11-5-1 run in its past 17 games. A 3-2 loss Monday to the Calgary Flames dropped the Avalanche to last place in the Central Division with 10 games remaining. Goalie Semyon Varlamov will start for the Avalanche against the Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, coach Patrick Roy told the Denver Post. "We're not going to give up," Roy said. "I understand that our situation does not look good, with the fact that Winnipeg and Minnesota are winning their games. But at the same time as a coaching staff and the players, we feel that we believe in ourselves." Varlamov has allowed six goals in his past two games after giving up seven during a six-game winning streak. Forward Joey Hishon returned Monday after missing five games because of an elbow injury. Forward Gabriel Landeskog has 14 points in his past 13 games.

Oilers team scope:
Edmonton will likely be without captain Andrew Ference after he sustained an upper-body injury Monday in a 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Ference had tests done Tuesday and more about his condition will be known Wednesday. Forward Boyd Gordon (back), also injured against the Jets, was given a day off Tuesday and is questionable. Forwards Luke Gazdic (illness) and Matt Fraser (concussion) will be available. Goalie Ben Scrivens will make his 16th start in 17 games hoping to end a stretch in which the Oilers have allowed four or more goals in seven of their past eight games. Edmonton has lost nine of its past 11, is 5-26-10 against the Western Conference and is 28th in the League with 53 points. "Our biggest thing is finding our team identity," defenseman Mark Fayne told the Oilers website. "These last nine [games] are huge for that. I think it shows our team character and what we're trying to build on here."

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