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Game 2 Preview: Avs, Oilers primed for another shootout

How many goals can we expect tonight?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers will play game two of the Western Conference Finals tonight at Ball Arena in Downtown Denver. The Avalanche took Game 1 in a high-scoring affair. Colorado nearly surrendered a four-goal lead late in but secured the victory with an empty-net goal.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche will have to be better defensively if they want to keep winning games in this series. You don’t want to try and outscore the Edmonton Oilers night after night, so I’d expect a tighter checking game from Colorado in Game 2. If they can’t execute defensively, we will have another track meet on our hands.

Colorado will likely be without their starting goalie Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper pulled himself during the second period of game one due to what looked like an equipment issue at first. Later, we found out that he left due to an undisclosed upper-body injury. Based on vague comments from head coach Jared Bednar, I’d presume he still isn’t right from that eye injury he sustained against the Predators.

Jared Bednar told Altitude Radio that he was pleased with his team’s performance to start the series. He mentioned that they would have to limit their defensive breakdowns and stay out of the penalty box to contain Edmonton’s elusive offensive attack.

Projected Lineup:

Gaberiel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Valeri Nichushkin
Artturi Lehkonen — Nazem Kadri — Mikko Rantanen
Alex Newhook — JT Compher — Andre Burakovsky
Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor

Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Jack Johnson — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson

Note: We could see some lineup changes in response to the defensive breakdowns seen in game one. Perhaps Nicolas Aube-Kubal returns to the lineup, or maybe we will see Ryan Murray for the first time this postseason.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers should be pretty confident despite losing the first game of the series. They gave up eight goals but scored three unanswered and reduced a four-goal lead to one late in the third period. They seemed to control the game for the last ten minutes of the contest and probably felt they could score at will. Fortunately for Colorado, they could not force overtime with an empty net and extra man.

It’s safe to say no lead is unassailable in this series, but track meets are on a slippery slope toward blowouts. Edmonton has been a part of high-scoring games throughout the 2022 postseason and looks very comfortable within these high-flying offensive showcases. They don’t mind giving up goals and relying on their elite offensive talent to get them out of any deficit. Can that continue to work in a conference final? We shall see.

Projected Lineup:

Leon Draisaitl — Connor McDavid — Zach Hyman
Evander Kane — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Kailer Yamamoto
Warren Foegele — Ryan McLoed — Jesse Puljujarvi
Josh Archibald — Derek Ryan — Zack Kassian

Darnell Nurse — Cody Ceci
Ducan Keith — Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak — Tyson Barrie

Goaltenders

Colorado will likely start Pavel Francouz after Darcy Kuemper pulled himself due to injury in Game 1. Kuemper didn’t look right in Game 1, especially on his third allowed goal where he couldn’t locate a rebound that just sat in the crease for a moment. Frankie looked solid replacing Kuemper but will have to be even better to thwart the Oiler’s potent attack.

I’d expect the Edmonton to give the net back to Mike Smith despite being pulled from the net in the series opener. Smith tends to perform well after having a tough night and brings a veteran mindset to the table. Colorado might have his number in the playoffs as he has lost five of the last six when facing the Avalanche.