Avalanche aim to keep Oilers from cooking at home

By Andy Lefkowitz, The Sports Xchange
Mikko Rantanen and the Colorado Avalanche face off with the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Mikko Rantanen and the Colorado Avalanche face off with the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Now that the Edmonton Oilers are back home, their immediate focus is on ending a three-game losing streak in which they gave up an average of more than four goals per game.

Continuing to slow down their next opponent's top line can go a long way toward getting back in the win column.


Edmonton looks to extend the Colorado Avalanche's skid Sunday night when the teams hit the ice at Rogers Place in the first of three meetings this season.

The Oilers opened a four-game road trip with a narrow victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 3 before losing to the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers by a combined 13-5.

"You never want to lose, but you never want to lose three in a row,'' winger Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday. "We can't let it be four in a row. Good teams don't let that happen, so we've got to respond well tomorrow."


Coach Todd McLellan said he believes that scoring chances were there but that the club just could not capitalize.

"When you look at just the goal total itself, you're going 'Jeez, they're not creating anything','' McLellan said Saturday. "In each of the games that we lost on the road trip, I thought we created numerous opportunities."

Edmonton (8-7-1) took five of a possible six points from Colorado last season, and is looking for two wins in a row at home over the Avalanche for the first time since 2013.

Colorado (7-6-3) is trying to avoid its sixth straight loss after falling 5-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night. After a 6-1-2 start, the Avalanche are 1-5-1, allowing 29 goals in that span.

"I think leaders on this team got to get on this now," Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson said. "We've got to stop the bleeding and string some wins together here."

A reason for the Avalanche's struggles is decreased production from the top line of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.

The trio caught the attention of fans when they combined for 20 goals and 23 assists over the first nine games of the season. They've totaled seven goals and 14 assists in seven games since.


"The best thing to do is just play in the offensive zone. Don't give them a chance to start creating and feeling good about their games," Nugent-Hopkins said.

The player among the three to have the biggest downturn is MacKinnon. The top overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft tallied 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) during Colorado's hot start, but has seven points (three goals, four assists) in the club's slump.

"It's no fun right now, but we have to get right back on it, play on Sunday and try to dig ourselves out," Johnson said.

Another key for the Avalanche is to get off to a quick start on the scoreboard. The club has trailed after one period in four of the last seven games.

Then there's trying to slow down Connor McDavid. The two-time scoring champion has scored six of his seven goals versus Colorado in the last three meetings and also has eight assists in eight games against the Avalanche.

McDavid, who has points in 14 of 16 games this season, notched his fourth career hat trick in Edmonton's 4-2 win over Colorado on Feb. 18 in Denver.


Colorado's Tyson Barrie needs one assist to reach 200 for his career. He will try to join Adam Foote (203) and John-Michael Liles (207) as the only defensemen in club history with 200 helpers.

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