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Oilers-Avalanche Preview

Sunday, 03.26.2006 / 5:00 PM

Associated Press

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Edmonton Oilers vs. Colorado Avalanche

GAME: Edmonton Oilers (35-24-12) at Colorado Avalanche (39-25-7).

TIME: Sunday, 9 p.m. EST.

The Colorado Avalanche have lost two of their best young stars to injuries. It's a good thing they still have veteran Joe Sakic in the lineup.

Sakic will try to keep his latest points streak alive and lead Colorado to its fifth straight win at the Pepsi Center when it meets the Edmonton Oilers in a key Northwest Division matchup.

The Avalanche have 85 points, good for sixth place in the tight Western Conference playoff race, one point behind both defending conference champion Calgary and Anaheim.

Colorado holds a three-point lead over both Edmonton and Vancouver, which are tied for seventh, and is four points ahead of ninth-place Los Angeles.

Sakic was the hero against St. Louis on Saturday, scoring a power-play goal 57 seconds into overtime to give Colorado a 3-2 victory.

"We were patient out there. I just kind of moved it around, "Sakic said. "I gave it to Blakey (defenseman Rob Blake), actually I thought he was going to shoot. I think so did they. It was in the right spot."

Sakic, who also assisted on Pierre Turgeon's power-play goal midway through the second period, has six goals and five assists during a six-game points streak.

The 17-year veteran, who has spent his entire career with the Quebec/Colorado franchise, picked up the scoring slack after the Avs lost dynamic rookie Marek Svatos on March 9 with a season-ending shoulder injury and veteran Alex Tanguay on Tuesday for two-to-four weeks with a sprained knee.

Svatos led Colorado with 32 goals - including nine game-winners - in 61 games, while Tanguay paced the team with 48 assists and 74 points.

Sakic's 30 career goals versus the Oilers are the second-most he has scored against one team. He has 31 against both Calgary and Los Angeles.

March also has historically been the best month for the future Hall of Famer. In 212 games, Sakic has tallied 112 goals and 170 assists, both career bests.

Edmonton completed a grueling three-game set against another division rival with a 3-2 win Saturday over Vancouver. The Oilers lost to the Canucks 4-1 on Tuesday in Edmonton before falling 4-3 in overtime on Thursday in Vancouver.

Former Canuck Steve Staios scored what proved to be the game-winner for Edmonton 2:07 into the third period.

"That was as big as they get at this time of the year," he said. "We knew we needed it. We didn't want to put too much pressure on it, but we certainly knew this was a huge game for us."

The Oilers are expected to start Ty Conklin in goal, ending a streak of 10 straight starts by Dwayne Roloson since he was acquired earlier this month from Minnesota.

Conklin was waived earlier this season by the Oilers, but went unclaimed. He hasn't started since surrendering three goals in regulation and overtime on March 7 in a 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas.

Conklin is 1-4-0 with a 3.93 goals-against average and .846 save percentage in his career versus Colorado.

STANDINGS: Oilers - 82 points, 3rd place (tied), 4 PB, Northwest Division. Avalanche - 85 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Ryan Smyth, 32 goals; Ales Hemsky, 52 assists; Shawn Horcoff, 69 points; Jaroslav Spacek, 90 PIM. Avalanche - Sakic, 28 goals; Tanguay, 48 assists and 74 points; Ian Laperriere, 105 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Oilers - Power play: 17.7 percent (77 for 434), 16th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.4 percent (358 for 429), 13th. Avalanche - Power play: 19.5 percent (82 for 420), 7th. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (324 for 387), 11th.

GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Roloson (9-20-4, 1 SO, 2.97 GAA); Conklin (7-5-1, 1, 2.85). Avalanche - Peter Budaj (11-8-5, 2, 2.70); Vitaly Kolesnik (3-3-0, 0, 3.29).

SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 4-2.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 7; Avalanche, 5-2. At Denver, Milan Hejduk, Tanguay and Rob Blake scored in the second period for the Avs. Jarret Stoll and Radek Dvorak tallied power-play goals for the Oilers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 19-11-6 on the road; Avalanche - 21-8-5 at home.

2005-2006 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 17 '06COL 2 at EDM 4J. Stoll
Mar 26 '06EDM 4 at COL 3 - SOS. Samsonov
Feb 07 '06EDM 2 at COL 5R. Blake
Nov 29 '05COL 3 at EDM 2J. Sakic
Nov 14 '05EDM 5 at COL 2C. Pronger
Oct 25 '05EDM 3 at COL 5P. Brisebois
Oct 21 '05COL 7 at EDM 1J. Liles
Oct 05 '05COL 3 at EDM 4S. Horcoff
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