Teams have had a tough time stopping the Colorado Avalanche's offense. In fact, the Edmonton Oilers are the only club that has had any success keeping them in check.
The Oilers, no longer able to count themselves among the NHL's unbeaten teams, look to slow down the Avalanche for the second time this season when the Northwest Division rivals meet Thursday night.
Edmonton won each of its first four games with strong defensive play, holding opponents to an average of 2.25 goals before a 3-0 loss at Chicago on Wednesday night.
In perhaps its strongest defensive effort of the season, Edmonton won its season opener 3-2 over Colorado (3-3-0) at home on Oct. 12. Mathieu Garon stopped 31-of-33 shots for the Oilers.
Edmonton got a clutch goal to secure the win, as Dustin Penner scored his second of the game with 5.4 seconds left.
That was the only contest in which the Avalanche have been held under four goals this season. Colorado's top line of Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny is in sync, leading a team that has averaged 4.0 goals-per-game.
Smyth scored twice and Hejduk had a goal and an assist, leading the Avalanche to a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Monday night. Stastny added two assists, giving him points in all six games this season.
The trio has been one of the league's most productive lines, combining for 11 goals and 24 points on the season.
"It's obviously a privilege playing with those two guys," said Smyth, who is second on the team with four goals. "I'm a guy that mucks it up a bit and goes to the net a little harder than those guys because they have that ability to create, and they've played together since Paulie's been in the league. So that makes my job a lot easier."
Hejduk, who tops Colorado with six goals, scored in this season's first matchup with Edmonton. He has three goals and one assist in his last four games versus the Oilers.
Second-year forward David Jones scored his first of the season Monday for the Avalanche, which has received goals from 15 different players.
Colorado, though, has struggled on defense, particularly on the penalty kill. The Avalanche has yielded an average of 3.66 goals per game, and its opponents have converted 29.6 percent (8-for-27) of their power-play chances.
Edmonton, meanwhile, has gone 0-for-4 with the man advantage in each of its last two contests after scoring on 38.5 percent (5-for-13) of its chances in its first three games.
On Wednesday, the Oilers' struggles finally caught up with them.
"We weren't ready to play at the start again," coach Craig MacTavish said. "We've gotten away with it in at least two of the first four games. We knew it wasn't going to be long before it bit us in the rear end."
Penalty killing is also becoming a problem for the Oilers, whose opponents have converted 30.7 percent (4-for-13) of their chances in the last three games.
Edmonton gave Dwayne Roloson his first start of the season Wednesday, and he stopped 27-of-30 shots. The Oilers will likely turn back to Garon, who is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average this season, and 2-2-0 with a 2.49 GAA in his last six games versus Colorado.
Peter Budaj is expected to be in net for the Avalanche. He is 9-3-2 with a 2.58 GAA in 14 career games against the Oilers.