Dec 5, 2013; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall (4) score the first goal of the game against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1) during the first period at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Avalanche - Oilers

Who: Edmonton Oilers (11-22-3)

When: Tonight, 9:30PM EST/7:30PM MDT

Your (unconfirmed) Starting Goalies: COL – Semyon Varlamov (15-8-1), EDM – Devan Dubnyk (9-14-2)

The Dangermen: These two met exactly two weeks ago and it got ugly quick. En route to an 8-2 thumping, led by Taylor Hall’s hat trick, the Oilers piled up three in the first and then really C4’d the doors off in the third period with another four goals.

Things likely won’t get that ugly again, but the Oil are again led by Hall (28 points in 29 games) as well as the name most commonly brought up in Oilers trade rumors: Jordan Eberle. Arguably the best of the bunch, though, is David Perron. He leads the team with 14 goals and trails Eberle by just two points (29 to 27) in addition to being the team’s best two-way player.

Past the big four, they’re getting a little here and there from guys like Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner (a disappointing four goals) and Mark Arcabello. As I said the last time: the definition of a boom or bust team offensively.

The Defenders: Defensively is where it’s all bust. The Oilers are dead last in the league in goals-against-per-game and it’s no secret that the defense has been a weak spot of this team for a few years now.

Once you get past Justin Schultz, it gets really, really dicey and he only gets praise because he’s a dynamic offensive defenseman so he’s at least trying to mitigate the mistakes in his own zone with some offense.

Lennart Petrell, Philip Larsen and Anton Belov all have something to prove and Andrew Ference is never going to be the player the Oilers needed him to be when he was signed. The sad fact for this group is they’re going to struggle through this year and the Oilers are going to hope Aaron Ekblad falls to them come June.

Puck Stoppers Inc.: The problem with writing these things so early in the morning is that, unless it’s been previously announced, we don’t know who the starter for that night is.

For the most part, it’s been Dubnyk. With his 9-14-2 record, 3.39 GAA and .891 save percentage, you could say he’s struggled this year. The sad question, though, is just how much can you blame him? The defense has more than a few shortcomings and sometimes, a goaltender can only do so much.

Dec 17, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (80) loses his helmet while blocking a shot against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers with a final score of 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

If it’s not him, it will likely be Ilya Bryzgalov. NHL has him listed on the injured reserve; Daily Faceoff has him starting. Who the hell knows at this point? Breezy was playing well before he went down to injury, posting a 2.30 GAA and .936 save percentage in his six games played, winning just one decision. Again: playing behind a bad defense is tough to overcome.

How the Avs match up: I suspect that things will be a little different this time out and we likely won’t see another Avalanche steamrolling. The Oilers continue to struggle (3-6-1 over their last 10) and there doesn’t seem to be a remedy coming.

It’ll be the same old story for the Avalanche: get on the board first and you’re likely golden. Get into the head of a very shaky Oilers defense and it’ll likely be smooth sailing for the rest of the night. Let the forwards get on top of you and bury a few? It’ll be another long night.

The Avs are treading water of late and need to start winning games like these that they’re supposed to be winning.

Key Matchup: Actually Scoring vs An Awful, Awful Defense

Cower in fear if: The Oilers get on top of the Avalanche early again.

Middling hockey continues to rule the day.

Varly’s shaky confidence returns.

Laugh maniacally if: Varly’s confidence is back and he resumes playing like a superhero.

Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots.

The Avs get to Dubnyk early, shaking his and the defense’s confidence.

Silly predictions: Matt Duchene adds to his team-leading goal and point totals; PA Parenteau joins the double-digit goal club; so does Gabe Landeskog; Varly turns aside 30 shots.

Final:  4-2 Avalanche

Ryan is the editor of Mile High Sticking as well as co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to talk Avs, Sabres, hockey in general, or to let him know what a yutz he is.

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Colorado Avalanche Devan Dubnyk Edmonton Oilers Gabriel Landeskog Jordan Eberle Matt Duchene NHL Semyon Varlamov Taylor Hall

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