Oilers-Avalanche Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 25, 2011
The Pepsi Center is one of the few road arenas in the NHL where the Edmonton Oilers have experienced consistent success in recent years. Given the way Colorado is playing on its home ice, that success may be likely to continue. Edmonton looks to win its second game in Colorado in less than a month and send the Avalanche to a third straight home loss Saturday night. The Oilers (12-8-2) are an NHL-worst 26-57-11 on the road since the start of 2009-10, including a 5-6-1 mark this season, but are 3-0-1 in their last four visits to Colorado. Edmonton defeated the host Avalanche 3-1 on Oct. 28, when Cam Barker and Andy Sutton tallied second-period goals and Ryan Smyth scored 6:09 into the third. Devan Dubnyk made 40 saves in that contest for the Oilers and could be in goal again after Nikolai Khabibulin got the start Friday, stopping 30 shots in a 5-2 victory at Minnesota. Dubnyk, who stopped 30 shots in a 6-2 win at Nashville on Tuesday, has posted a 1.00 GAA while winning his last three starts in Colorado. Smyth had a goal and an assist Friday, while rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice. Nugent-Hopkins has three goals and seven assists in the last four games for the Oilers, who have won three of the four and totaled 20 goals in those victories. "We knew we were bound to break out offensively at some time. It's great that it's happening now," said Taylor Hall, who has four goals in the last four games. "We just have to maintain that every game.'' While Edmonton concludes a four-game road trip Saturday, the Avalanche may wish they could hit the road. For that, they'll have to wait until next month. Colorado (9-12-1) is an NHL-worst 3-8-0 at home this season, including losses in two of the first three games on its franchise-record eight-game homestand. A punchless offense has been the biggest reason for the home woes. The Avalanche, who lost 3-0 to Vancouver on Wednesday, have totaled eight goals in their eight losses at the Pepsi Center. "It's hard to win hockey games when you don't score a goal, and right now we're in a little bit of a funk here at home,'' coach Joe Sacco said. "We're not scoring for whatever reason and certainly at times like this you need production from your best players, and we're not getting it from them right now.'' Colorado's top four goal scorers - Matt Duchene (nine), Milan Hejduk (seven), David Jones (seven) and Paul Stastny (six) - have scored just 11 of their 29 goals at home. "Our performance is embarrassing,'' Stastny said. "We can't score goals. We are being too cute. We need to show more drive, more desperation and just get to the net.'' The lack of offense puts additional pressure on the goaltenders, and starter Semyon Varlamov is not playing particularly well. Varlamov, who stopped 16 shots in last month's loss to the Oilers, is 0-6-1 with a 4.18 goals-against average in November. Backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 2-2-0 with a 1.75 GAA and a shutout in his last four starts, but 5-10-2 with a 3.11 GAA against the Oilers since 2002-03.
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