NHL Preview: Colorado Avalanche vs. Edmonton Oilers

By brianpalmer
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

I have two words for you concerning tonight’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche: Special Teams.

The Oilers are currently tied for fifth in the NHL in power play percentage (27.3%), having converted 6 of 22 chances so far, while the Avalanche are 27th (8.3%), having converted only 1 of the 12 chances they have been given. In terms of the penalty kill the teams are basically a wash, as Edmonton ranks 11th (83.3%), having killed 20 of 24 penalties, while Colorado ranks 14th (80%), having killed 20 of 25. The Avalanche are the most penalized team in the league, averaging 28 minutes a game.

All of these factors could bode extremely well for the Oilers tonight, as they will be in front of their home crowd and ready to start lighting the lamp if Colorado starts going penalty-crazy again.

Anyone who followed the Baby Oilers during their time in Oklahoma City of the AHL to start the season knows that Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Teemu Hartikainen absolutely lit the league up, especially on the power play. And when you consider the team finished third in the NHL as a power play unit last season it was obvious that opponents would really need to key in on the Oilers’ power play to prevent the Oilers from stealing any games from them because of the man-advantage. The same will be true for the Avalanche tonight as they try to keep the Oilers from getting back over the .500 mark.

One thing that might work in Colorado’s favor? The fact that Edmonton has not led for a single second this season, despite having won twice already. They don’t know how to play with a lead yet. Another factor which might help the low-scoring Avalanche (only nine goals in the first four games)? Edmonton has been outscored 9-2 thus far in the first period of games, so if the Avalanche can get going early then they might be able to rest on their solid defense (only nine goals allowed in four games) the rest of the way and see if they can outlast the Oilers.

Edmonton will be looking to right the ship offensively and defensively as they have yet to have a real breakout game in either department so far. And the Avalanche are not as potent of a threat without Ryan O’Reilly, so perhaps Edmonton will have more success shutting the Avalanche down without his presence to stir things up. Never count a team with Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog though.

Big things could happen tonight for one of these two teams. If the Los Angeles Kings manage to defeat the Vancouver Canucks tonight in regulation, then either the Oilers or Avalanche will take over first place in the Northwest Division if they win tonight. That could be a significant ego boost for these two teams, even if it is early on, so count on these teams being ready to come out swinging tonight.

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