The Colorado Avalanche are hoping to take advantage of what’s been a precious commodity lately, home ice advantage, when the host the Edmonton Oilers.
The Colorado Avalanche are playing the first game in Pepsi Center this month. They haven’t played on home ice since the November 30 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues. Needless to say, the Colorado crowd is more than ready to banish that memory.
Well, finally the Avalanche are going to have seven games at home. They’re not all in a row, and there are a couple back-to-backs that the NHL just loves to pile onto Colorado’s plate. However, it will be good to see some home cooking.
This is the second meeting between Colorado and Edmonton this season. The Avalanche made their lone trio to Edmonton last month and skated to a 4-1 victory. They’ll host the Oilers one more time, in April.
Colorado is coming off that embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They finished the road trip with a split, winning two and losing two. Their 17-8-5 record is good for second in the Central Division.
Edmonton is on a bit of a hot streak. They beat the Western conference-leading Calgary Flames on Sunday. They’ve won four of their five December games. Because of a slow start, though, their 16-12-2 record has them just on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.
How to Enjoy the Game
Game time: December 11, 7:00 pm MT
TV Networks: Alt , SNW (Oilers’ feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)
Home Ice Advantage
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As mentioned, this is the Colorado Avalanche’s first home game in the month of December. Colorado has always dominated on home ice, and this season is no different. They’re 6-2-3 in the Pepsi Center.
Naturally, a small part of the advantage is altitude. The Avalanche players are used to playing one mile high while other teams are not. However, when you’re talking about elite athletes, that advantage only takes you so far.
More the advantage comes in those matchups. Yes, the Oilers have the fastest skater in Connor McDavid, but overall the Avalanche are a faster team. When they get the matchups they want, Colorado skaters can skate circles (literally in Samuel Girard‘s case) around opponents.
Containing McJesus while Letting God MacK Fly
Speaking of the Oilers’ leading scorer — because of course McJesus is Edmonton’s leading scorer — that is a young man who can win a game all by his lonesome. You simply cannot underestimate the powers of the Oilers’ latest Messiah.
And the Colorado Avalanche defense, which has been up-and-down all season, must contain the superstar forward.
Meanwhile, hopefully the extra room lets God MacK fly. Nathan MacKinnon‘s 45 points, though greater than McDavid’s 40, do not lead the Avalanche — that honor goes to Mikko Rantanen. However, MacKinnon is our superstar. And as we saw in the lone goal against Tampa, MacK does have some god-like powers of his own:
Nathan MacKinnon in god mode is a thing of beauty.
Goalie Duel Update
Ok, update is a bit of a strong word because as of the time of writing, there’s no update on who will start in goal tonight.
If you go by who’s earned the right recently, that would be Philipp Grubauer. He started against Florida. He faced 35 shots, stopping 33 for a save percentage of .943.
Meanwhile, Semyon Varlamov started three times on the road — against Detroit, Pittsburgh and Tampa. He recorded his first shutout of the season against the Wings… followed by allowing six in Pittsburgh and five in Tampa (after which he was chased, and Grubauer allowed two more.)
Bednar has said he’s going to either ride the hot goalie or play the rested goalie throughout the season. In both cases, that leads to Grubauer.
Indeed, I’d say this is Grubauer’s chance to shine. He’s not going to steal the starting position from Varlamov, I don’t believe. However, he’s trying to prove he’s the future of starting goal tending here in Colorado.
If he gets the start tonight, he can work to that end tonight by stopping whatever magic McDavid tries to make.
After tonight, the Colorado Avalanche have two days off. They’ll fly to St. Louis for the first leg of a back-to-back series, returning to Colorado to host the Stars again for the second leg.