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PREVIEW: Oilers at Avalanche

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
TV: Sportsnet Oilers

RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 7:38 p.m. MST


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The Edmonton Oilers look to avoid a letdown after playing some of the NHL's best teams tough but not quite burying their chances to come away with wins on this road trip. Looking at the last time Edmonton and Colorado faced off, the Oilers dominated in an 8-2 win over the Avs. The Oilers know their opponent will be looking to exact some revenge on the team and protect their home ice.

"I think our guys are understanding how we have to play," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "The challenge now is that we've gotten ourselves in a spot where we're in the game and now we've got to be able to take the next step and win the game. It's still unacceptable to let these games slide by without getting points. That game against Colorado was very long ago and they're going to be looking to redeem themselves and we've got to make sure we don't let them do that."


The Oilers head coach confirmed that Devan Dubnyk would start between the pipes against Colorado.

"Devan will play tonight and we look for a solid game from him," said Eakins.

Dubnyk has had a large amount of success against Colorado in his career, with a record of 8-3-1 against the Avalanche and a 1.94 goals against average and .943 save percentage. Dubnyk earned the win against Colorado on December 5, making 33 saves on 35 shots.

Coach Eakins says his staff does look at a goaltender's past success against a team when determining who will start, but it's not the final word.

"You look at it, but I still go back to the team that he'll play tonight is different than the team he played last year. I'm not sure what credibility it has but we look at a ton of different things. The most important thing is, we thought it was a perfect time to get Dubnyk back in the net. (Ilya Bryzgalov) played well, and it gives Devan another opportunity to get in there and play well, as well."

Dubnyk is excited to return to the lineup after sitting the past two games.

"Yeah, it will be good," the goalie said. "We had a good game against these guys last time. They're a great hockey team and they'll be coming out hard. Obviously, we're looking to wrap up the road trip on a good note."


Late in the Oilers most recent game, in Los Angeles, Mark Arcobello suffered a big hit by Drew Doughty. The hit has caused the Oilers centre with some discomfort in his ribs. He did not practice yesterday and is not available tonight in Denver, so Anton Lander will slide into Arcobello's spot on the fourth line.

"Yeah, he'll go in," said Eakins. "Arcobello couldn't even practice yesterday. He could barely breathe with those ribs crushed like that. He'll get another day off, Anton will go in and other than Dubnyk, that'll be the only change in the lineup."

"You're always excited to get back in the lineup and it will be fun to play tonight," said Lander.

This will be the first time that Lander has played on this road trip. Tonight, he looks to rebound in the face off dot from his last performance against Boston, where the team struggled as a whole on their draws.

"Yeah," he said when asked if he expects his numbers in the circle to be better. "You can't think the other way. You've got to be ready for everything that happened there and try to win as many draws as you can. That means you start with the puck and that's what we want."

In his previous three games, leading up to Boston, Lander was 66.7, 66.7 and 60% on his face offs.


The players may be the same, but the Oilers know full well not to expect the same performance from the Avalance tonight, as they did on December 5, in that 8-2 win for Edmonton.

"I don't think personnel wise it will be different," said Dubnyk. "But I think we probably caught them on a rare night this year and I don't think the game was as far off as the score indicated at the end. This is a good hockey team and we always have good games against them. I don't think anybody in our room expects that, that game in our building is going to be anything like what we're going to see tonight."

Since that win against Colorado, the Oilers have a 1-4-1 record, while the Avalanche have managed a 3-3-1 tally since that humbling defeat.

-- Chris Wescott,


OILERS (11-22-3) at AVALANCHE (22-10-1)


Last 10: Colorado 5-4-1, Edmonton 3-6-1

Season series: Second of three, but this one comes on the heels of a high and low point for either team, an 8-2 rout of the Colorado Avalanche by the Edmonton Oilers exactly two weeks before at Rexall Place, Edmonton's fifth win over Colorado in six games. Taylor Hall had a hat trick, leading six Oilers scorers.

Big story: The most frustrating thing of all for the Oilers after that win was not being able to build on it, getting one overtime win since and losing four in a row (1-4-1). The Avalanche have fared better (3-3-1), but the most important development is the resurgence of forward Matt Duchene, who has seven points in his past four games.

Team Scope:

Oilers: Edmonton knows what it did to Colorado, and forward Jordan Eberle certainly knows what the Oilers will be facing.

"Anytime a team beats you like what we did to them, you want to come back with a good response, especially in your own building," he said Wednesday. "So we expect a different game, for sure, but for us, we've lost four in a row, so we have to get back on the right track."

Forward David Perron said, "We just have to expect more of ourselves. We can't just wait for bounces to happen, like if we just had the right bounces we could have tied the game up yesterday (a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings). It gets old very quickly when you live that way. Every NHL game you go through there are bounces and if you don't get them you might not win, but the good teams find a way to get them and if they don't they'll keep coming at them and the next game they'll get them. It's really not about the bounces, it's about working hard and when you do that, everything happens the right way."

Oilers defenseman Corey Potter is eligible to play Saturday versus the St. Louis Blues after serving a two-game suspension for boarding Nick Bonino of the Anaheim Ducks last Sunday.

Avalanche: When coach Patrick Roy addressed the media Wednesday, the first question was his choice of starting goalie.

"We were happy with our goaltending those two games but we're going with Varly," Roy said referring to Semyon Varlamov, who bore the full brunt of the Oilers' eight-goal attack but played well in a 6-2 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Another reason the Avalanche feel more confident going into Thursday night is Duchene's recent play. Not only is he racking up points again after overcoming an oblique injury and an illness, but he broke the team's 0-for-31 power-play drought with a goal in Colorado's 3-2 loss to Dallas in the back end of the home-and-home Tuesday.

"I'm feeling normal again, back to where I was before I got hurt," he said Wednesday. "It's crazy how long it takes sometimes to feel normal again. I think what happened was you have a week-and-a-half or two weeks when you're injured, you come back, you get sick right away, you play three, four or five games where you don't feel right and kind of forget where you were at. I think there were a couple of little things I wasn't doing and when I started doing them again, everything fell back into place."

Who's hot: Hall played his 200th NHL game Tuesday and has 28 points in 29 games this season. … Avalanche forward Paul Stastny picked up two goals and two assists Monday; forward P.A. Parenteau had three assists. Since the Dec. 5 game in Edmonton, Varlamov has not allowed more than three goals in four starts (2-1-1).

Injury report: Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) has missed two games and is questionable.

-- Matthew Mankiewich,

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