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Friday Four: Avalanche, Hurricanes out to prove last season was no fluke

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses resurgent Oilers, Sabres

by Kevin Weekes / NHL Network Analyst

Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will bring you his Friday Four. The former goalie and current NHL Network analyst will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
 

 
Colorado Avalanche

There's only one team in the NHL without a regulation loss and it's the Colorado Avalanche. They're 5-0-1 and have done just about everything right so far despite losing 3-2 in overtime at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. We'll see if they can keep this up during this tough six-game road trip with stops at the Florida Panthers on Friday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, ALT, NHL.TV), Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, St. Louis Blues on Monday and Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 25.

Their top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen has combined for 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists), helping the Avalanche average 4.00 goals per game (tied for second in the League with the Penguins; the Nashville Predators lead the NHL averaging 4.29 goals per game). 

Video: COL@PIT: Rantanen feeds MacKinnon for tying goal

Scoring has never been an issue for Colorado; it's usually been the defensive side where problems have arisen in the past. But the Avalanche are giving up 2.50 goals per game (sixth-best in the NHL) thanks to defensemen like Samuel Girard and Cale Makar

Colorado snuck into the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and doesn't want that to happen this time around.

 
Carolina Hurricanes

Coach Rob Brind'Amour has done a tremendous job. The Hurricanes (6-2-0) were a surprise team last season, when they made the Eastern Conference Final, and many didn't think they'd even be a playoff team this year. Well, they're sure playing like one now.

They arguably have the best defense corps in the League with holdovers Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Haydn Fleury, and newcomers Jake Gardiner and Joel Edmundson. Other additions have done an excellent job as well; forward Erik Haula leads Carolina with six goals, center Ryan Dzingel has seven points (two goals, five assists), and goalie James Reimer is 2-2-0 with a .914 save percentage.

 
Buffalo Sabres

Coach Ralph Krueger has had a big impact on the Sabres and has to be an early favorite for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. Buffalo (6-1-1) appears to be improved defensively, with two shutouts in its past three games.

Second-year defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is off to a strong start with nine points (one goal, eight assists) and is plus-2. Forward Victor Olofsson has six goals -- each on the power play -- and center Jack Eichel has been, well, Jack Eichel, with 10 points (four goals, six assists).

Video: BUF@ANA: Olofsson scores again on power play

Goalie Carter Hutton has five wins, tied for the NHL lead (with Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights) and has a sparkling 1.39 GAA and .953 save percentage to go along with two shutouts.

 

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers (6-1-0) are exceeding all expectations in the early going. General manager Ken Holland and coach Dave Tippett have done an outstanding job. Trading for forward James Neal, who is tied with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for the League lead in goals (eight) has paid immediate dividends. Not to mention center Connor McDavid (17 points; five goals, 12 assists) and forward Leon Draisaitl (15 points; six goals, nine assists), the top two scorers in the NHL.

And the goaltending has been excellent between Mikko Koskinen (3-0-0, 2.60 GAA, .927 save percentage) and Mike Smith (3-1-0, 2.51 GAA, .917 save percentage). All things considered, this is a better start than even the Oilers could have hoped for.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

How about Patrick Marleau returning and scoring two goals in his first game with the San Jose Sharks? The 40-year-old forward has been just the spark they needed; the Sharks have won three straight, outscoring opponents 13-7, after an 0-4-0 start.

Lastly, John Carlson of the Washington Capitals has been one of the NHL's top defensemen for a while, but I think this is the season he will challenge for the Norris Trophy. He leads defensemen in scoring and is third in the League with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists).

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