NOTE: We are in Denver today and will provide pre-game video interviews following the morning skate as well as lineup updates throughout the day.
EDMONTON OILERS (4-1-0) at
COLORADO AVALANCHE (3-3-0)
Start Time: 7:38 p.m. MDT
Television: TSN (HD)
Radio: 630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Game Notes | Oilers/Avalanche Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics
by Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com
|THE ESSENTIALS FOR TONIGHT
Following four straight victories to start the 2008-09 season, the Edmonton Oilers finally had their first taste of defeat last night in falling 3-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks to kick off a three-game road trip.
Chicago got off to a 2-0 lead and didn't look back in the blanking. Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook and Aaron Johnson got the goals for the host Chicago squad.
The Colorado Avalanche started the season with three consecutive losses, including a 3-2 heartbreaker in Edmonton's home opener but have since turned that around to win three straight.
In their most recent game, Ryan Smyth scored twice and Milan Hejduk had a goal and an assist as the Colorado Avalanche topped the Los Angeles Kings by a 4-3 count Monday at STAPLES Center in LA. Paul Stastny chipped in with two helpers for the Avs.
Tonight's game is the second of six between the Oilers and Avalanche this season.
Just The Facts...
OILERS TO WATCH: Goaltender Mathieu Garon is likely to return to the nets for Edmonton tonight. In three games, Garon has a record of 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. He ranks among the top five in the NHL in save percentage currently... Shawn Horcoff leads the Oilers with 16 shots on goal and is one of four Oilers (Visnovsky, Penner, Cogliano) who lead the team with two tallies... Through four games, Sam Gagner is still looking for his first point of the season.
AVALANCHE TO WATCH: Linemates Milan Hejduk, Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny have combined for 24 points (11g/13a) in six games this season... Stastny has at least a point in all six games this season for the Avs. He is tied for first in the NHL in assists (9) and tied for second in points (10), trailing only Evgeni Malkin (11)... Hejduk has a team-leading six goals this season (in six games), the best start of his career … He had six goals through seven games in 2003-04 … Milan enters tonight's contest with a three-game goal streak (4 total) and has lit the lamp in all but one game in 2008-09... Hejduk is tied for second in the league in goals, just one behind Buffalo's Thomas Vanek.
Edmonton – Steve Staios (personal reasons) is doubtful; Colorado – The Avalanche are healthy.
FAST FACTS: Stastny's streak is the he longest scoring streak to begin a season by an Avalanche player since 1999-2000 (Joe Sakic, 8 games) … Stastny's six-game assist streak is a franchise record to start a season... Former Oiler Ryan Smyth has a four-game point streak (4g/2a), his longest since joining the Avalanche... The Avs are 55-52-8-3 all-time against the Oilers, which includes a 43-22-6-3 record since moving to Denver.
The Other Side
- Practice Report: Scoring in Bunches - With a league-high 24 goals through six games, Colorado certainly hasn't had trouble finding the back of the net. However, head coach Tony Granato hopes the Avalanche's scoring success becomes a luxury rather than a necessity ...more
- This Week in Avalanche Hockey - Winners of three straight, the Avalanche will host a pair of games this week, facing off against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday before hosting the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night ...more
Odds and Ends
From the Wire (AP)
Teams have had a tough time stopping the Colorado Avalanche's offense. In fact, the Edmonton Oilers are the only club that has had any success keeping them in check.
The Oilers, no longer able to count themselves among the NHL's unbeaten teams, look to slow down the Avalanche for the second time this season when the Northwest Division rivals meet Thursday night.
Edmonton won each of its first four games with strong defensive play, holding opponents to an average of 2.25 goals before a 3-0 loss at Chicago on Wednesday night.
In perhaps its strongest defensive effort of the season, Edmonton won its season opener 3-2 over Colorado (3-3-0) at home on Oct. 12. Mathieu Garon stopped 31 of 33 shots for the Oilers.
Edmonton got a clutch goal to secure the win, as Dustin Penner scored his second of the game with 5.4 seconds left.
That was the only contest in which the Avalanche have been held under four goals this season. Colorado's top line of Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny is in sync, leading a team that has averaged 4.0 goals per game.
Smyth scored twice and Hejduk had a goal and an assist, leading the Avalanche to a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Monday night. Stastny added two assists, giving him points in all six games this season.
The trio has been one of the league's most productive lines, combining for 11 goals and 24 points on the season.
"It's obviously a privilege playing with those two guys," said Smyth, who is second on the team with four goals. "I'm a guy that mucks it up a bit and goes to the net a little harder than those guys because they have that ability to create, and they've played together since Paulie's been in the league. So that makes my job a lot easier."
Hejduk, who tops Colorado with six goals, scored in this season's first matchup with Edmonton. He has three goals and one assist in his last four games versus the Oilers.
Second-year forward David Jones scored his first of the season Monday for the Avalanche, who have gotten goals from 15 different players.
Colorado, though, has struggled on defense, particularly on the penalty kill. The Avalanche have yielded an average of 3.66 goals per game, and their opponents have converted 29.6 percent (8-for-27) of their power-play chances.
Edmonton, meanwhile, has gone 0-for-4 with the man advantage in each of its last two contests after scoring on 38.5 percent (5-for-13) of its chances in its first three games.
On Wednesday, the Oilers' struggles finally caught up with them.
"We weren't ready to play at the start again," coach Craig MacTavish said. "We've gotten away with it in at least two of the first four games. We knew it wasn't going to be long before it bit us in the rear end."
Penalty killing is also becoming a problem for the Oilers, whose opponents have converted 30.7 percent (4-for-13) of their chances in the last three games.
Edmonton gave Dwayne Roloson his first start of the season Wednesday, and he stopped 27 of 30 shots. The Oilers will likely turn back to Garon, who is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average this season, and 2-2-0 with a 2.49 GAA in his last six games versus Colorado.
Peter Budaj is expected to be in net for the Avalanche. He is 9-3-2 with a 2.58 GAA in 14 career games against the Oilers.