Things have been a bit up and down for the Colorado Avalanche lately, who have essentially alternated wins and losses for the better part of three weeks. Now, in the Eastern Conference .500 hockey like that will keep you right on trucking towards a playoff spot. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, this is the Western Conference, and you dont get to just decide to switch conferences so that you can keep winning games with a worse team than ever and get better coverage despite it (*coughcough detroit). Since this is the unforgiving Western Conference, the Avalanche have been slowly slipping down in the standings and now begin a battle for their playoff lives, which will likely last through April.
Vancouver 36 GP 46 Points
Colorado 33 GP 45 Points
Minnesota 36 GP 45 Points
Phoenix 33 GP 41 Points
Dallas 33 GP 37 Points
Those are going to be the Avalanche's competitors for the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference. Realistically, none of the teams above them are going to miss the playoffs and no one below Dallas is going to climb their way back into the playoffs this season with the way teams are collecting points in the West this season. One thing worth noting is that those five teams in playoff competition with the Avalanche, have a combined 26 loser points. TWENTY SIX. Thats 5 OT losses for each team, plus a 6th for Vancouver. So what percentage of those team's points have been earned by LOSING you ask? Well:
Thats a problem for the Avalanche, and as much as we all hate the loser point here at MHH, we're going to need to find some of them if we want to stay in the playoff race with some of these teams, because right now the Avs are doing it the hard way. The Avs have to find a way to get the bad nights into OT, because at the end of the year, those points could make a difference. If the Avs had stretched five of their eleven losses this season into OT, like all the teams chasing them, they would have 49 points, and would leapfrog past St. Louis and San Jose. Parity folks.
All that aside, the best way to keep pace in the playoff race is, of course, by winning games. And if there were ever a team that the Avalanche wanted to beat, it would probably be these Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are, once again, not a very good hockey team this year. Their 11-22-3 record in 36 games is worst in the Western conference and 29th in the NHL (Buffalo has managed just 8 wins this year. Yikes). The Oilers have the league's 3rd worst goal differential at -30 and lead the in goals against with 123 (3.4 per game). Their team's savior has put in a humongous big effort in net, saving 93.6% of the shots he sees and posting a 2.30 GAA, heroic amongst Oilers goaltenders.
Of course no team knows better than the Avalanche how talented the Oilers forward corps is. In interviews on Wednesday Avalanche Captain Gabriel Landeskog dismissed questions about the Avs' recent thrashing at the hands of the Oilers and insisted that tonight was just another game. It's doubtful that the Avalanche locker room has forgotten being embarrassed on Edmonton ice, and hopefully they will use that fuel to rediscover their winning ways with a big revenge win over Oilers.
As a fan, I don't just want a win tonight, I want an all around Oilers spanking. I want Ilya Bryzgalov lit up like an early Christmas tree at the hands of the Avalanche forwards. I want Taylor Hall's ugly mug nowhere near a camera because he's hiding his face in shame. I want Nail Yakupov's disappointment to be as visible as his scoring celebrations. And, I want Jordan Eberle to demand a trade out of Edmonton, and into Colorado. A long wish list, but I think the Avs can get it done tonight.
The Good Guys:
O'Reilly - Duchene - MacKinnon
Landeskog - Stastny - Parenteau
McGinn - Mitchell - Talbot
McLeod - Cliche - Bordeleau
Hejda - Johnson
Benoit - Sarich
Guenin - Barrie/Holden/Wilson
The Avalanche defense is a bit of a mystery heading into tonights game. Patrick Roy said that Nate Guenin would make his return to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch in Dallas, but he was unsure which Avalanche D-man would take a seat in his place.
The Bad Guys:
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Perron - Gagner - Yakupov
Smyth - Gordon - Hemsky
Gazdic - Arcobello - Jones
Petry - Ference
N Schultz - J Schultz (Really Eakins?)
Belov - Larsen
Puck Drops at 7:30 PM MST 9:30 PM EST on Altitude TV
If you thought the Avalanche game was big, an even bigger clash of the hockey titans will take place on Pepsi Center ice at 4:00 MST this afternoon as Mile High Hockey takes on the Burgundy Brigade in an epic showdown of strength, speed, grit, and me falling down more often than Aaron Palushaj. If you want to know more about the pre-game or join us on the ice, or with your best Patrick Roy impression from the bench check out the After (Before?) Hours thread and buy a ticket through our sweet discount.