For the Edmonton Oilers, tonight's game is a must win. They currently have four games remaing and sit three points behind Vancouver (five points behind Colorado) for the final playoff spot.
If they lose tonight, it is actually impossible for them to be any better than the last playoff team.
The odds of that aren't very good. Even if they do win tonight, Nashville will still only be one point behind with a game in hand. Lets not forget Nashville plays tonight as well.
So what must the Avs do tonight to win this game?
Shut Them Down Early
In the last meeting, the Avalanche let the Oilers control the game and force play into their end where they scored three quick goals. The Avalanche need to make sure they play a strong, physical game early and force play into the Edmonton zone.
Keep The Big Line Together
The line that worked so well last game, (Hejduk-Stastny-Forsberg) needs to be and should be kept together. If they remain hot, the Avs become incredibly dangerous.
Likewise, Quenville shouldn't do too much juggling between Brunette and Smyth in trying to find that winger to play with Sakic and Jones. Let one of them develop chemistry with the other. (Most likely Smyth)
Discipline, Not Stupidity
The Avs are the least penalized team in the NHL and the penalty kill isn't great enough for them to take five or six penalties in a game. They should be playing with discipline, not stupidity. If Cody McLeod wants to hit a guy, fine, he just needs to make sure he's doing it legally.
The defensemen on this team have a knack for taking holding and hooking penalties and that is a direct result of their positioning on the ice. Don't jump into the play if you can't get back. John-Michael Liles and Scott Hannan both do a great job jumping into the play, but Hannan is a huge culprit when it comes to holding.
Get The Lead
During their four-game losing streak, the Avs didn't have the lead in any of the games. In each of their past two wins, they've scored the first goal each time.
In my next post...
As promised, the expanded On the Bubble