Avalanche -verb: To overwhelm with an extremely large amount of anything.
An avalanche can be used in the form of a noun as well, but based on how the Oilers are playing right now, Avalanche might be more appropriate in the form of a verb tonight. The Oilers have been overwhelmed in multiple areas lately, so it is very possible the Avalanche could inundate the Oilers in a variety of ways this evening.
The Oilers haven’t been consistenly strong in any one area of their game this season, while the Avalanche have surprised many by remaining a playoff team despite their MVP from last season, Craig Anderson, being sidelined for a month. Peter Budaj is 8-4-1 so far this season, and while his numbers aren’t great, 2.83 GAA and 0.903 SV%, he won seven games for the Avs when Anderson was injured.
The Avs surprised everyone by making the playoffs last year, and just like the Coyotes the Avalanche have proven they weren’t a one-year wonder. Chris Stewart has emerged as a bonafide power forward with 11 goals and 24 points in 21 games. Milan Hejduk and Jean-Michael Liles have bounced back after brutal campaigns last season and have 23 and 22 points respectively. (Oiler fans and management are praying that Tom Gilbert can somehow bounce back like Liles has next season).
NO HEMSKY, OH NO…
Ales Hemsky is out day-to-day with a groin strain, and with Nikolai Khabibulin already out, Oiler fans must been wondering if this is "Here we go again." Last year the Oilers season ended with injuries to Hemksy and Khabibulin within two weeks of one another, but they were season-ending injuries and right now both Hemsky and Khabibulin should return within a week.
With Hemsky taking a seat in the pressbox, Tom Renney has juggled his lines.
Sam Gagner will centre Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Jones. Dustin Penner will move back with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule, while Shawn Horcoff will stick with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and Zack Stortini returns alongside Colin Fraser and JF Jacques.
Ladislav Smid is back tonight and he’ll play with Ryan Whitney. Tom Gilbert plays with Theo Peckham and Jim Vandermeer is paired with Kurtis Foster. Renney is using Whitney as his security blanket to protect other D-men. Smid has played okay this year, and Renney likes his aggressive style, but he is hoping that pairing him with Whitney will allow Smid to calm down when moving the puck. Whitney isn’t a miracle worker, because he couldn’t get Gilbert to play any better, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Smid plays better being paired with Whitney.
GERBER GETS A START
Marting Gerber will make his first NHL appearance since April 11th, 2009 when he defeated the Ottawa Senators while tending twine for the Maple Leafs. Gerber is a great story. He broke his back 11 months ago playing for Mytishchi Atlant in the KHL. He recovered, signed with the Oilers, went 9-4 with Oklahoma in the AHL and now find himself back in the Show.
Renney is rewarding him with a start, but I also think he is protecting Devan Dubnyk because you don’t want the kid getting shell-shocked in every game. Dubnyk has played well, and Gerber’s start is not a reflection of Dubnyk’s play. Khabibulin will be activated in the next week so this will probably be Gerber’s only start, and what has Renney got to lose at this point.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: In typical Oiler fashion, the Oilers will do the unexpected and be ready to play when the puck drops at 7:08. Gerber will be strong, and the Oilers will muster a 2-1 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gilbert will continue to struggle with two glaring giveaways, he will still play 25 minutes, but Gilbert will have to get involved in a few scrums because Peckham will be at his belligerent best. Having to get involved physically might actually wake Gilbert up, but I stress maybe.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With the Grey Cup in town there will be at least 20 more media wretches in the press box. This will cause some drama because the free cookies, popsicles and fudgesicles will be gone before the first period ends. Brownlee will be especially pissed because yesterday he had officially dropped 80 pounds since staring his Herbal Magic health kick, and tonight he was going to celebrate by crushing a popsicle (they have lowest calories) in celebration. Brownlee gets to the freezer too late. His face gets more red with every step back towards his seat, and on the way he sees Ken Reid opening a popsicle. Brownlee high-steps it over to Reid, grabs the cherry popsicle out of his hand, and takes a big bite. Reid doesn’t recognize the new-looking Brownlee and sits in stunned silence. During the commotion in the press box, the Oilers allow another PP goal, and life returns to normal.