Who: Edmonton Oilers (9-18-2)
When: Tonight, 9:30PM EST/7:30PM MDT
Your Starting Goalies: COL – Semyon Varlamov (13-6-0), EDM – Devan Dubnyk (7-12-1)
The Dangermen: Despite their wealth of highly-touted, high-end offensive draft picks, the Oilers sit in the bottom half of the NHL (20th) in goals-per-game.
They’re a top-heavy team getting solid production from their top four or five guys and not a whole lot past that. David Perron, riding a three-game point-streak, leads the team in goals with 11. He trails Jordan Eberle for the team point lead (23-22) and is making the trade that sent him to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi look more lop-sided by the day. He also leads the team with half-a-dozen power play goals.
Though they are scoring relatively well, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (21 points) and Taylor Hall (20 points) are still receiving their fair share of criticism so long as the team continues to struggle.
And then there’s the most recent first overall pick, Nail Yakupov. The young, exuberant Russian is struggling (just four goals, nine points in 27 games) amid swirling rumors that he could be traded. The Oilers had high expectations coming into the season and the start they’ve had has sent some into a panic. If Yakupov is moved, it could be something they regret for a long time.
The Defenders: What can you say about an outfit that is dead last in the NHL in goals against per game? The team tried to address it in the draft by selecting Darnell Nurse in the top ten, but he was sent back to his junior team before the season started.
Aside from Justin Schultz, who has star potential as the team’s borderline-elite puckmover, there isn’t a ton there. Andrew Ference was brought on to help solidify the group, but he’s a bottom pairing kind of player; there’s only so much he can do.
This group is a mess and will likely remain as such for the rest of the season unless the team decides to make a move. Even then, they’d have to part with someone from their talented young forward group and unless they’re getting something guaranteed back, that might not be something they want to do.
Puck Stoppers Inc.: Then again, in fairness to the defense, the goaltending hasn’t exactly been sparkling. Devan Dubnyk has improved as the season’s gone on, but you don’t get to be 7-12-1 with a 3.38 GAA and .889 save percentage without a little fault landing in your corner.
Though, to be fair to him, no one the team has put in has done much of anything to date. Richard Bachman is 0-2-1 with a 3.02 GAA and .916 save percentage, while Jason LaBarbera is 1-3-0 with a 3.69 GAA and .858 save percentage.
Really, only the recently-signed Ilya Bryzgalov has looked good and he’s now out with an injury, leaving the job for Dubnyk again. The season may be lost already, but Dubnyk and the Oilers need to hope things go better instead of having another hole to fill.
How the Avs match up: Let’s see: a top-ten scoring outfit (the Avalanche) against the worst team in the league in terms of keeping pucks out of their net (the Oilers). I wonder how this will go?
The four-day layoff did the Avalanche good as far as rest and getting healthy; everyone should be back save Alex Tanguay and Ryan Wilson. The fast, aggressive Avalanche can end this game in the first period if they get going and should be aiming to do just that.
On the other side of the coin, the Oilers aren’t scoring at the pace many thought they would, but are certainly capable of big nights now that all of their guns are in the lineup.
Key Matchup: Offense vs Fragile Goaltending/Defense
Cower in fear if: Dubnyk forgets he and the defense are terrible.
This battle station is fully armed and operational.
The Avalanche don’t STAY OUT OF THE DAMN BOX (sticky’d).
Laugh maniacally if: Early goals turn the crowd against their team.
Matt Duchene goes Human Video Game ™.
The rest and relaxation do everyone good: Landy and Stastny come back to continue their resurgent seasons and MacKinnon continues his goal-scoring streak.
Silly predictions: Things get a little out of control in the first period with a flurry of goals; Landy extends his point-streak; Stastny picks up his first goal in forever; Yakupov has one moment that leaves Oilers fans questioning his existence on Twitter; Varly makes at least one save he probably shouldn’t.
Final: 5-3 Avalanche
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