|Avalanche, Oilers meet for third time|
Lucky breaks have been hard to come by for the Edmonton Oilers in what's been a lost season. Connor McDavid may feel otherwise -- especially this month and against the Colorado Avalanche
The Oilers and the Avalanche meet for the third time this month on Thursday night at Rogers Place.
Edmonton (24-31-4) opened February with a 4-3 overtime loss at home followed by a 4-2 win last Sunday in Denver. Not surprisingly, McDavid is the Oilers' top player with five of the seven goals in the season series. He started the month by scoring twice in the loss, and recorded his third hat trick of the season on Sunday.
The reigning Hart Trophy winner has 15 points (11 goals, four assists) in 10 games to tie Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the league scoring lead in February.
McDavid is also among the league's top scorers with 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists), but he was held off the scoresheet as Edmonton surrendered three third-period goals in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
The Oilers are 2-15-2 when McDavid fails to collect a point.
"We just can't catch a break," Cam Talbot told the Edmonton Journal after making 42 saves while losing for the sixth time in seven starts. "It's the way the season's going for us."
Talbot (20-23-2, 3.12 goals-against average, one shutout) lost in his only career start in Edmonton against Colorado in February 2016. The Oilers returned Laurent Brossoit to Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Wednesday, indicating that Al Montoya (1-1-1, 2.73 goals-against average with Edmonton) will be available after missing two games with a head injury.
One bright spot for the Oilers in recent games is the line of Ryan Strome, Anton Slepyshev and Jujhar Khaira. Strome has goals in each of his last two games, Slepyshev has two goals over his last seven games despite playing around 12 minutes per contest, and Khaira also scored versus Boston.
"I've liked Stromer's game the last three. I think he's been around the net. He's had chances. He's shooting the puck more, creating offense for himself and others," coach Todd McLellan said. "Anton has improved immensely over the last little bit ... and J.J.'s finally decided to shoot the puck again."
Colorado (32-23-4) opened a three-game Western Canada swing on Tuesday by rallying from three goals down to top the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 in overtime.
Tyson Barrie joined Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon with a five-point game for the Avalanche this season. Barrie, a defenseman, collected a goal and four assists -- all on the power play -- to eclipse his point total over the previous 13 games.
"He was good. It is not just the points, he was defending with a purpose," coach Jared Bednar told the team's official website. "He was using his body. He gets rewarded for playing a good all-around game I think. The decisions he's making in the offensive zone, especially on the power play, were really good."
Barrie has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 16 career games against Edmonton.
Colorado's top three scorers -- MacKinnon (25 goals, 65 points), Mikko Rantanen (19 goals, 56 points) and Landeskog (20 goals, 44 points) have a combined three assists and a minus-9 rating versus the Oilers in 2017-18.
Semyon Varlamov (15-12-2, 2.87 GAA, two shutouts) is expected to start for Colorado, but he's fared poorly in Northern Alberta. In seven career starts, the Russian is 1-5-0 with a 4.44 GAA and .866 save percentage.
With Jonathan Bernier injured (concussion), Andrew Hammond is the current backup and has not appeared in an NHL game in more than a year.
Both teams are currently outside the top eight in the Western Conference. The Avalanche is in 11th place, but are one of eight teams separated by six points. The Oilers have the second-fewest points in the West with 52.