Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Many Predators fans thought the 6-0 drubbing of the Oilers a week ago was a sign of things to come, a turning over of a new leaf after a dismal West Coast road trip. The Predators lost Hornqvist in that game and Colin Wilson the next night but earned points in the next two games…that is until Vancouver and Calgary hung a combined 13 goals on Nashville in two games. Now the Predators are looking for answers and the inmates are getting restless in the cell block. Can the Predators light up the Oilers once again and prove that they have life and heart left to sally forth till season’s end with Hornqvist and Wilson’s return hopefully on the horizon?
Edmonton is in 13th place behind Nashville in 10th, but only two points behind them in the standings with one less game played. The Oilers have a who’s who of young talent and veteran presence that should have them leading the way offensively for the Western Conference. Unfortunately, much like the Flames, only two players on the Oilers roster have a positive +/- rating (Magnus Paajarvi +3 and Mark Fistric +4). Justin Schultz and Nick Schultz have the worst at -11 and -12 respectively.
The goaltending for the Oilers has been average at best, but this doesn’t explain why a juggernaut of offensive talent can’t win out more games unless the defense is suspect. Dubnyk has stared 23 games for the Oilers and has a record of 7-9-5 with one shutout. The mainstay defense for the Oilers is a combined -36. This is doom for not only the regular season, but if by some way the Oilers can pull it together and make the playoffs, this lack of defensive presence is a sure bet for a first round knockout.
Nashville….where to begin. After a great home-stand and opening to the five-game road trip the Predators have been destroyed by Vancouver and Calgary by a combined score of 13-7. Nashville showed signs of life and scoring prowess in these games but in the last two it has been too little too late and Rinne was manhandled in both games allowing 6 goals on 14 shots. Chris Mason came in for relief in both games and tried his best to spark the Predators and in both games the Predators did score some extra goals but with the damage done, the Predators skated off with zero points and a hard lesson learned.
Gabriel Bourque has been one of the highlights for Nashville in the absence of Wilson and Hornqvist. His team leading nine goals has him tied for fifth in team scoring. Bourque has five goals in his last seven games and continues the strong showing of youth on the Predators roster. Even with a couple tallies in the last two games, David Legwand has been lackluster in the defensive department, an arena where Legwand normally excels. Sergei Kostitsyn was benched in the Calgary game, but many feel either Legwand or Erat could use some pine-riding to send a message. Erat only has 4 points and is a combined -5 in his last 14 games, but Erat sports an “A” so Coach Trotz might be hesitant to healthy scratch the speedy forward. Blum will be in against the Oilers and it is yet to be determined who will be the odd man out on the blueline.
Hopefully the Predators and their All World goalie Pekka Rinne can turn things around like they did a week ago against the same Edmonton Oilers. This road trip is viewed by many to be an important marker for whether or not the Predators will get into the playoffs.
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