Preview: Avalanche at Oilers, Game 5
Coming off of a disastrous 4-0 loss in San Jose Saturday afternoon, the Colorado Avalanche are looking to rebound against the Edmonton Oilers for their first road win of the 2013 season. Both squads are 2-2 entering Monday night's tilt and fighting hard to stay over .500 and within reach of a playoff berth. Yes its early, but tonight's Game 5 marks over 10% of the shortened NHL season in the books, and neither of these Northwest Division teams has really found its identity.
Like Colorado, the Oilers are led by a crop of young talented players. Forwards Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle share the team's points lead (5) with rookie defenseman Justin Schultz heading into tonight's game. The Oilers sit 21st in goals per game (2.5) and goals against per game (3.25) and will be looking for more production from their young scorers to make up for suspect defense and goaltending.
Although neither team's coach has confirmed, Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov will likely start in net. In 6 career matchups against the Oilers, Varlamov is 3-3 with 15 goals against and a .910 save percentage. Dubnyk meanwhile is 4-2-1 in 7 games against the Avalanche with 15 goals against and a .933 save percentage. Although Avalanche coach Joe Sacco hasn't made a public statement as of yet, it will be interesting to see if there are changes to the Avs lineup after the shellacking they received in San Jose this weekend. It's tough to say whether any individuals played themselves out of the lineup Sunday, but with Tyson Barrie, Brad Malone and Shane O`Brien all fighting to get back on the ice there could be changes if players like Greg Zanon, Matt Hunwick and Chuck Kobasew don't elevate their game.
The Avalanche haven't benefitted from their usual hot start this season so if they want a shot at making the playoffs, they need to start winning with regularity, especially in their division.
What to watch for:
- Gabriel Landeskog: The Avalanche's young captain was shaken up by a hit from San Jose's Brad Stuart on Saturday, but even before the hit, Landeskog just hasn't quite played at the level that won him the Calder Trophy last year. He leads the team with 15 shots on goal and is currently shooting at an unfortunate 6.7%. Despite the small sample size, Landeskog's numbers indicate that he should start scoring soon, but he'll need to step up his game for the Avs to win in a tough Western Conference.
- Matt Duchene: The young center has been excellent for the Avalanche at the start of the season. Will the Avs recent loss derail his progress? Or has Matt Duchene finally found a rhythm?
- Special Teams: The Avalanche's penalty kill has been a bit of a Jekyl and Hyde story so far this season. The Avs gave up zero power play goals in their two wins and five goals in their two losses. An inconsistent penalty kill would be one thing if the Avalanche could get it done on the other end of the ice, but thus far the Avalanche's power play has been absolutely anemic scoring just 1 goal on 12 opportunities. For those keeping track at home, the Avalanche are 2nd to last in the NHL in power play opportunities with 12 (the Sharks lead that category with 32 chances on the man advantage).
- Nail Yakupov: The 1st overall selection in 2012 is already making a name for himself in the NHL, albeit a slightly controversial one. Yakupov has received lots of press for this goal celebration in last week's Oilers game including a serious ripping from the always delightful Don Cherry.
Game Time: 7:30 pm MT, 3:30 GMT TV: ALT, Radio: ALT Radio with Moser