If the Colorado Avalanche were looking for an opportunity to help better their position in the Western Conference playoff race, the time is now.
The Avalanche open their season-long stretch of eight straight home games while looking to hand the Edmonton Oilers their sixth consecutive loss in Denver on Friday night.
Colorado and Edmonton each have 45 points, only two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the crowded West. With three games remaining between the these Northwest Division rivals, the series winner could have an edge over the other in the obtaining one of the final playoff spots.
For now, the Avalanche (22-21-1) appear to be in better position having won two of the three meetings between the teams this season while dominating the Oilers at home of late. Colorado has outscored Edmonton 22-11 in winning its last five home games in the series.
The Avalanche’s upcoming eight-game stay - which spans 21 days including the NHL All-Star break - is the second longest in franchise history behind a nine-game homestand wrapped around the Olympic break in 2001-02. Five of the eight contests come against teams ahead of the Avalanche in the conference standings.
Colorado is 13-8-0 at home and looking for a third consecutive victory at the Pepsi Center on Friday.
In order to benefit, however, Colorado must play better than it did in a 5-2 loss at St. Louis on Thursday. Milan Hejduk and Cody McLeod scored as the Avalanche dropped their second straight contest after winning three in a row.
Peter Budaj made 21 saves in his first start since Jan. 4 to drop his fourth in a row while allowing 15 goals during the skid. Though Budaj is 11-3-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average versus the Oilers, Andrew Raycroft could be back in net after sitting out Thursday’s game with a minor calf injury
Raycroft is 9-2-0 with a 2.70 GAA on the season and has allowed 10 goals in posting a 2-1-0 career recorded versus the Oilers.
Hejduk has a goal and four assists in his last five games. He and teammate Ryan Smyth are each a goal shy of 300 for their careers.
Hejduk has three goals in his last five contests against Edmonton while the longtime Oiler Smyth scored in the Avalanche’s 3-2 shootout win over his former team on Nov. 15 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
Edmonton (21-19-3) enters this contest looking to bounce back from a 5-1 loss at Minnesota on Thursday. Liam Reddox scored for the Oilers, who had allowed three goals in winning their previous two games.
“Outside of the heinous defensive breakdowns and lapses on some of the plays, we played pretty good,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “And we battled hard. It was as hard as we’ve competed in a while.”
Dwayne Roloson made just 19 saves in falling to 13-9-3 against Minnesota, and took the loss in the last meeting with the Avalanche.
Mathieu Garon, though, could be in net in this back-to-back situation. He is 5-4-0 with a 3.28 GAA against Colorado.
Dustin Penner recorded an assist Thursday for his first point in six games. He has two goals against the Avalanche this season.