Oilers open 30th season tonight at Rexall Place
COLORADO AVALANCHE (0-1-0) at
EDMONTON OILERS (0-0-0)
Start Time: 6:08 p.m. MDT
Television: Sportsnet (HD)
Radio: 630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Game Notes | Oilers/Avalanche Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics
|DENVER - NOVEMBER 7: Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche makes a save against Shawn Horcoff #10 the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center November 7, 2007 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
by Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com
|THE ESSENTIALS FOR TONIGHT
The Edmonton Oilers open the 2008-09 regular season tonight at home when they meet their Northwest Division rivals, the Colorado Avalanche.
Tonight will mark the beginning of Edmonton's 30th season. The team will take the ice wearing their vintage third jerseys
Edmonton finished with 88 points last season, just three shy of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Avalanche had 95 points, finishing sixth in the West.
An improbable run at the end of the season drew the Oilers within striking distance of that last playoff spot, propelling them to ninth position in the conference. They went 14-5-1 in their final 20 games to make things interesting.
Last season, the Oilers only won twice in eight tries against Colorado with two of the losses coming in a shootout (2-4-2).
The Avalanche fell on Thursday in their home opener, losing 5-4 to the Boston Bruins thanks to a late goal from Bruins forward David Krejci.
The two teams essentially traded leads all night in what was a high-powered offensive match-up. Boston scored the game's first goal and Colorado's lone lead of the game was by a 3-2 margin early in the second period.
Milan Hejduk, Wojtek Wolski, Cody McLeod and Jordan Leopold were the goal scorers for Colorado while Hejduk added an assist and John-Michael Liles had a pair of helpers.
This year, Edmonton only plays Colorado six times. This is the first of six meetings in 2008-09.
Just The Facts...
Mathieu Garon starts in goal tonight for the Oilers, while Marc Pouliot draws in on the fourth line to play alongside Kyle Brodziak and Zack Stortini
... Pisani will be down the middle with Moreau on the left side and Penner on the right.
OILERS TO WATCH:
Plenty of eyes will be on Oilers second-year forward Sam Gagner
tonight. Gagner finished last season at an incredible pace, with nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in his final 28 games... Erik Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky make their debut in an Oilers uniform tonight. Cole had 22 goals and 51 points in 73 games last season for the Carolina Hurricanes and scored 30 in 60 games back in 2005-06. He will be slotted on the left side alongside Shawn Horcoff
and Ales Hemsky
... Visnovsky is the third-highest scoring defenceman in the NHL since the end of the lockout. Over those three seasons, he has 43 goals and 123 assists for 166 points in 231 games. He had a career-high 18 goals in 69 games in 2006-07.
AVALANCHE TO WATCH:
Former Oiler Ryan Smyth suits up for the Avalanche tonight. Smyth had 14 goals and 37 points in 55 games for Colorado last season. He looks to be back on track, with five goals and seven points... Paul Stastny emerged as an offensive leader for the club in 2007-08 with 24 goals and 71 points in 66 games... After a slow start last season, Milan Hejduk rallied to score 29 goals... Former Toronto Maple Leafs pest Darcy Tucker joined the Avs in the off-season. He had four points in four pre-season games.
Edmonton – The Oilers are healthy; Colorado – Scott Parker (head injury) is out..
Tonight marks Edmonton's 30th season opener. The Oilers are 15-9-4 (.607) in season openers since joining the NHL in 1979-80... Edmonton is 13-5-3 (.690) in season openers at Rexall Place and have opened every season at home since 2001-02... The Oilers are 1-1-0 against the Avalanche franchise in season openers. They won 4-3 back on October 5, 2005 and lost 7-4 to the Quebec Nordiques on October 10, 1980... The Oilers have the seventh-best record in season openers among the 30 NHL clubs... Tonight is Visnovsky's 500th game in the NHL... Last season, the Oilers had an NHL record 15 shootout wins and an overall record of 15-4 in the shootout. However, two of the four shootout losses came at the hands of the Avalanche... Avs defenceman Adam Foote will be playing in his 1000th game tonight... Joe Sakic is now only the ninth person in NHL history to play 20 seasons in the NHL with the same franchise. Sakic began with the Quebec Nordiques in 1988-89.
Oilers assign Schremp and Roy to Springfield
- The Edmonton Oilers have assigned defenceman Mathieu Roy and left winger Rob Schremp to the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League. ...more
The Other Side
- Avs look to build on positives - Despite dropping its season opener to the Boston Bruins, the Avalanche showed many positive traits. Colorado now looks to take those positives and turn them into a victory when the club faces Edmonton on Sunday ...more
- An impressive feat for Foote - Adam Foote, who has appeared in more regular season (812) and playoff contests (164) than any other defenseman in franchise history, will have a chance to add to his legacy this weekend by playing in his 1,000th career NHL game ...more
From the Fans
Odds and Ends
- Oilers fan Oberst wins Anthem contest - Hockey fans in Oil Country have another reason to be proud today as Oilers fan and Beaumont, AB resident Colin Oberst was announced as the winner of Hockey Night In Canada’s anthem competition. ...more
- A Tale of Two Masks - While the entire Oilers squad is eager to don the classic blue and orange third jerseys this Sunday, goalies Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon are taking their tribute to another level with eye-catching new masks. ...more
From the Wire (AP)
After a strong finish to last season - and carrying a young roster with promising talent - the Edmonton Oilers were enthusiastic about getting the 2008-09 season underway.
They had to contain their excitement a bit longer than any other team.
The Oilers will become the last NHL club to begin regular-season play on Sunday, when they host the Colorado Avalanche in the first of six meetings between the Northwest Division rivals.
Last season, Edmonton went 41-35-6 and finished three points shy of Nashville for the final Western Conference playoff berth, but the Oilers won 14 of their last 20 games and retained much of their young core that includes second-year skaters Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Tom Gilbert.
"I think we're all pretty excited," said Gagner, who was fifth among NHL rookies with 49 points last season. "We have a confident bunch in here who's pretty competitive, and for us to succeed we're gonna have to be that way all year. ... Hopefully we can get off to a good start and keep it rolling."
Coach Craig MacTavish's club is even more eager to start after watching every other team begin its season over the past eight days. Four teams have played at least three games and the New York Rangers have already completed four contests before the Oilers drop the puck for the first time.
"I guess the league's going to let us in now," MacTavish said. "It's unusual, to say the least, that we have to wait."
Edmonton is hoping its offensive performance will have been worth the wait. Ales Hemsky returns after the 25-year-old led the team with 71 points last season, and the club bolstered its offense by acquiring Erik Cole in a trade with Carolina in the offseason.
Shawn Horcoff also returns to the ice for the first time since Jan. 29. Horcoff had 50 points in 53 games last season before shoulder surgery, then signed a six-year contract extension in the offseason.
The bigger question mark may be in net. Goalie Mathieu Garon, who's mostly been a backup throughout his career, enters 2008-09 as the Oilers' top goalie, hoping to improve on his 26-18-1 record and 2.66 goals-against average last season.
"It's gonna be up to him to grab it and run with it, and become not only a solid No. 1 goalie on our team, but be one of the better goalies in the league," MacTavish said. "We all know how important goaltending's going to be in this division."
The Avalanche certainly understand, and their situation in the crease may be even murkier. After Jose Theodore bolted via free agency, Peter Budaj inherited the top spot.
Budaj didn't look like a No. 1 goalie in Colorado's opener, making just 15 saves in a 5-4 home loss to Boston on Thursday. The Avalanche outshot the Bruins 39-20, including 20-5 in the first period, but Budaj allowed the winning goal with 2:36 to play in the game. He's still slated to start Sunday.
"We did skate well, we did create enough offensively, but there are areas we can improve," Avs coach Tony Granato said.
It's been 10 years since the Avs last began a season with two straight regulation losses, as they dropped four in a row to begin the 1998-99 season. That season, they still reached the Western Conference finals.
Despite the loss, Colorado saw promising signs from its offense Thursday, as veteran Milan Hejduk had a goal and an assist while youngster Wojtek Wolski also scored.
The Avs have thrived offensively in recent visits to Rexall Place. They dropped their last two games in Edmonton last season, but before those losses they had been 7-1-1 in their previous nine games there. They've still averaged 4.4 goals in their last 11 games at Edmonton.
"They, more so than any other team, have embarrassed us here in our own building over the last number of years," MacTavish said. "This will be a good test for us (Sunday) to minimize the damage that they do in their offensive zone."
Colorado went 6-2-0 against Edmonton last season, with two of the wins coming in shootouts.
Sunday's game will be the 1,000th for Avs defenseman Adam Foote in his career.