After a 3-1 trip through Western Canada, the Colorado Avalanche have dropped their last two contests and will be looking to get back in the win column tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.
The one loss on that Canadian swing was to the Oilers, so the Avs will be looking for a bit of revenge as they hit the ice tonight at the Pepsi Center. After three days off, look for Nathan MacKinnon and crew to have a little pep in their step as they try to shut down the most dynamic duo on hockey.
Connor McDavid set a career high with six points in the game a couple weeks ago so the Avs are undoubtedly going to be looking for a way to slow him down tonight.
Being a home game, coach Bednar will have the opportunity to get the matchup he wants against McDavid. He will likely use his home advantage to get Nazem Kadri out against McDavid as much as possible while allowing the MacKinnon line to exploit a less than impressive bottom-nine Oilers group.
These are the two highest scoring teams in the Western Conference, so we should expect this to be as far from a defensive battle as a game can get.
Reinforcements are getting close. Both Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have been skating with the team as each works their way back from serious lower body injuries. Of the two, Rantanen will be back in the lineup first, but not quite yet. After going thought a full practice on Tuesday, he mentioned that he would not be ready for the game against Edmonton but that he hopes to get into at least one of the games against the Chicago Blackhawks this weekend.
Until his return, the pair Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi are going to have to continue to provide support for Nathan MacKinnon. The two have done a great job of filling in on the top line as both are on pace to crush their previous career highs for offensive output.
On the back-end, the team has re-called Called Rosen in case Erik Johnson isn’t ready to go. Johnson has been practicing in his normal position alongside Samuel Girard but has been wearing a non-contact jersey. Rosen has been with the team all week skating on a fourth pair with Mark Barberio. If Johnson isn't able to go, there is a chance we could see Rosen make his Avalanche debut tonight.
Andre Burakovsky — Nathan MacKinnon — Joonas Donskoi
Tyson Jost — Nazem Kadri — J.T. Compher
Matt Nieto — P-E Bellemare — Valeri Nichushkin
T.J. Tynan — Vladislav Kamenev — Logan O’Connor
Samuel Girard — Erik Johnson (maybe)
Ryan Graves — Cale Makar
Nikita Zadorov — Ian Cole
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that the Oilers are two great players and then a lot of junk. In Draisatl and McDavid, Edmonton is able to lean on two of the three best players in the league. The pair sits one and two in league scoring and each have nearly 30 more points than the next closest Oiler.
They sit on top of the West with 35 points and are winning games by relying on their goaltender to hold the fort long enough for the big-two to score a bunch.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is expected to miss his second straight game after suffering a hand injury last week. Even with him in the lineup, this Oilers team is thin down the middle. Now, veteran Sam Gagner is going to step into the 2C role - something that the Avalanche will have the opportunity to exploit.
Leon Draisaitl - Connor McDavid - Zach Kassian
Alex Chiasson - Sam Gagner - James Neal
Joakim Nygard - Riley Sheahan - Josh Archibald
Markus Granlund - Gaetan Haas - Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse - Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Kris Russell - Caleb Jones
As he settles back into a starter’s load, Philipp Grubauer will get the start tonight against the Oilers. He will be looking to bounce back from a rough start against Toronto where he let in four goals before being pulled to start the second period.
In Edmonton, the team has been going with a true tandem as Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have started 14 games each. Koskinen has been the hot than of late, starting seven of the team’s 11 games in November. We won’t know who gets the nod in net tonight but whether it’s Koskinen or Smith, the Avs will see a very inconsistent goaltender who is just as likely to steal a game as he is to let in a lot of softies.