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Friday, 12.15.2006 / 5:00 PM

Associated Press

The Colorado Avalanche have developed a reputation as a potent offensive team over the years. Although some of the names have changed, this season's club is no exception.

Colorado looks to continue its improved play on offense and win three straight for the first time this season Friday when it hosts the Northwest Division rival Edmonton Oilers.

Inconsistency has been an issue all season for the Avalanche (15-14-2), who have failed to win more than back-to-back contests in their first 31 games.

A 4-1 victory Wednesday over league-worst St. Louis gave Colorado consecutive wins for the fifth time. The Avs, however, have been outscored 22-12 in the four previous chances they've had at winning their third in a row.

Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny each had a goal and an assist, and Peter Budaj stopped 25 shots Wednesday, leading Colorado to its third win in four games.

"Get a little run together, and all of a sudden you're looking at winning the division as opposed to just getting there," Avs coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was very important for us to win tonight. I thought we were strong in all areas, and we had the puck a lot."

Since scoring one total goal in losses to Vancouver and Columbus, the Avalanche have 18 goals in their past four games. The power play has been a big factor in that span, converting seven of 22 opportunities.

While Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake and Alex Tanguay are no longer with the team, Colorado still ranks among the league leaders with 99 goals.

Captain Joe Sakic has scored in four straight games with five goals and nine points during that span. He leads the team with 14 goals, Hejduk has 10 and five others have at least eight.

Veteran center Pierre Turgeon has provided a lift since returning from a shoulder injury with three goals and four points in four games.

"It's nice to be back out there, and the bottom line is the last two games, we've come out with two points each time," Turgeon said. "We've got to keep it rolling."

Jarret Stoll and Shawn Horcoff scored goals 14 seconds apart late in the third period Thursday as Edmonton (17-12-2) rallied for a 3-1 victory over visiting Minnesota.

"Any win against a team in our division is obviously a big one," Stoll said. "It is so tight. We got in and got the pucks. We were physical and their defense was looking over their shoulders at times."

Second-year defenseman Matt Greene scored his first NHL goal for the Oilers, who rebounded from consecutive losses and assumed sole possession of first place in the Northwest.

"It's good to finally get it over with and to have that done," said Greene, who was glad the game ended in regulation. "I think I'm number 20 on the shootout list. I don't even get to play in overtime let alone a shootout."

While Stoll has produced lately with two goals and five assists during a six-game point streak, center Petr Sykora - the team leader with 28 points - has gone nine straight games without a goal.

Sykora hasn't gone 10 consecutive games without a goal since Jan 21-Feb. 27, 2002, when he was with New Jersey.

The Oilers recorded a pair of one-goal wins in the first two meetings this season in Colorado, but the Avalanche responded with a 7-3 victory Nov. 30 in Edmonton.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 23 '07COL 3 at EDM 4 - SOM. Reasoner
Mar 21 '07COL 5 at EDM 1J. Sakic
Feb 03 '07EDM 3 at COL 2S. Horcoff
Dec 19 '06COL 7 at EDM 6B. McLean
Dec 15 '06EDM 1 at COL 4J. Liles
Nov 30 '06COL 7 at EDM 3T. Arnason
Nov 13 '06EDM 2 at COL 1R. Smyth
Oct 14 '06EDM 4 at COL 3P. Sykora
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
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