Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images
The Oilers come into Bridgestone Arena three points back of the Nashville Predators having played two less games. The Predators owned Edmonton in their first meeting at 501 Broadway 6-0, starting a nice three-game point streak. The Predators would lose to the Oilers in Edmonton by a score of 3-2 almost a week and a half later making it the third consecutive loss on a four-game losing skid on the Western road trip. Winning the last two games, the Predators are looking to use this home-stand to battle back from the damage done by two horrid road trips this season.
Edmonton is always a threat to score. The young crop of forwards like Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov are the future scoring stars of the NHL and were top-rated draft picks for the ever-high draft placement of the struggling Oilers. Added to that the addition of defenseman Justin Schultz and Edmonton is probably the most offensive team boasting the youngest talent in the NHL. But, along with stellar offensive weapons, the fate of the Oilers has been defense and goaltending being suspect year in and year out. Injuries and lack of true blueline talent has shored up the prospect of holding teams to less than three goals most nights. The Oilers only hope is that they can out-score their opponent on a nightly basis and that has not been the case for some time.
Edmonton stands at 11-12-7 with a total of 29 points. They have 72 goals for and 88 goals against making their goal differential -16. Compared to Nashville’s goal differential of -6 and Nashville being considered by many to be offensively anemic, the Predators have scored 80 goals and allowed 86. It will continue to be problematic for the Oilers to not address the defense and goaltending issues that have plagued them for so long. Maybe Edmonton should have pulled the trigger on the Luongo trade rumors, but in the meantime Devan Dubnyk has been decent, but decent isn’t what gets teams into the playoffs.
Nashville is riding high after a thorough dismantling of the Blue Jackets Saturday night with a four goal flurry in just under four minutes (fastest four goals in franchise history) would send the fans home with free Frosty’s and a 5-2 win over one of the hottest teams of late in the NHL. Bobrovsky looked pedestrian against Nashville in both games this month allowing 7 goals (1-1-0). He was yanked from Saturday’s game after allowing four goals on 11 shots.
The Predators veterans are starting to break out of their slumps at a very opportune time while Hornqvist and Wilson remain on the injured list. Legwand keeps finding ways to contribute and dare say may have found the right linemates in Bourque and Beck, the latter scoring his first NHL goal and assist against Columbus. The reinsertion of Hal Gill into the lineup was a huge cause for celebration as he remains one of the most solid penalty killers on the team eating up over four minutes on the 5-minute major assessed to Rich Clune for a late, high hit on Anisimov.
Pekka Rinne has been average in the last two games giving up five goals total, but the offense of the Predators has stepped up to put games away with 10 goals in the last two contests. The defensive pairings are starting to finally come together with the subtraction of Scott Hannan from the lineup. Weber and Josi have been building chemistry and racking up points all year, but the newest d-pairing of Kevin Klein and Victor Bartley is proving to have some major firepower and energy in Bartley with the steady stay-at-home presence of Klein. They are a great compliment to each others game and finally the hole has been filled from the second pairing when Josi moved up to replace Ryan Suter on the top line d-pair.
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