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Avalanche-Oilers Preview

AP - Sports

The Edmonton Oilers have had trouble on the power play since their first meeting with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche have had problems with the man advantage all season.

It's all part of these struggling Northwest Division rivals' inability to score heading into their third matchup Saturday night in Edmonton.

The Oilers (5-5-3) were at 35.7 percent on the power play through their first five games after going 4 for 6 in a 4-1 home victory over Colorado on Jan. 28. Edmonton is 4 for 35 in eight games since.

The Avalanche (5-6-1), meanwhile, are at 10.3 percent for one of the league's worst marks. They are 0 for 9 in the season series, coming up empty in a season-high six chances in a 3-1 home win Feb. 2.

Colorado and Edmonton are two of the league's lowest scoring teams at 2.2 per game.

The Avalanche continue to be hampered by the holdout of top returning scorer Ryan O'Reilly, with injuries to captain Gabriel Landeskog (head) and defensemen Erik Johnson (head) and Ryan Wilson (ankle) further depleting their lineup.

"We are missing Landy and some other key guys out of our lineup so everybody has to step up," veteran winger Milan Hejduk said.

First-year Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger admitted that he has been focused on helping his team improve defensively, with the Oilers allowing a Western Conference-high 33.6 shots per game. With three days off before this contest, he has finally been able to divert some practice time to offense.

"Our team offense, everybody is marking players, individual players and saying he doesn't have goals or he's not scoring or he's responsible," Krueger said. "It's never one player himself that's responsible for scoring."

One skater under the microscope is center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has a 23-game goal drought dating to last season. Another is winger Ryan Smyth, who has one goal and one assist and sat out for the first time as a healthy scratch for Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Dallas that opened a five-game homestand.

Smyth has returned to practice and will likely play Saturday.

"I'm a competitor," Smyth said. "Absolutely, it's tough to take. It's in our nature to play hockey and not sit up and watch but that was the coach's decision he made. He felt it was best for the team at the time and we'll move forward."

Smyth has no points in the two meetings with the Avalanche.

"This is a very experienced NHL player who has got a lot of hunger here, I feel," said Krueger, who has also scratched veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney for the last two games. "We're expecting a strong reaction from him. He knows what he needs to do to help this team."

Colorado has won consecutive road games after ending a three-game slide with Thursday's 4-3 shootout victory over Minnesota. Hejduk reached the 800-point plateau on his 37th birthday with a second-period goal.

"You try to be patient no matter what's going on throughout a season," Hejduk said. "You will have ups and downs and try to be even-keeled and don't get too excited or too down on yourself."

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