The Nashville Predators move on from B.C. to Alberta tonight, as they tangle with an Oilers team that has plummeted to the bottom of the Western Conference by going 1-10-1 in their last 12 games. Can the Preds keep this team down, or will the Oilers rise up and defend their rink?
Follow after the jump for the breakdown...
Meet the Enemy
Unlike the Preds, who are coming into this one after having played the night before, the Oilers haven't had a game since last Thursday, which prompted a mini-camp held by coach Pat Quinn to try and right the ship. Many fans are already running up the white flag, however, and are looking forward to as high a draft pick as they can get this summer.
Perhaps Derek at Copper & Blue sums up the feeling in Edmonton best:
It's all gone very, very bad. In fact, it's gone the way that most of us expected it would, the injuries have pushed the team down three or four spots further down in the standings than most predicted finishing spots. All of our worst fears about the terrible Khabibulin deal came true, all of the teeth-gnashing over the lack or real forwards was warranted and the lack of organization depth decried by most has been exposed in a big way.
Will Quinn's training camp result in a more focused, energetic effort from Edmonton tonight? That has to be a big concern for Preds fans. The Oilers are like a wounded dog right now, and I'm sure they still have some fight left in them.
Meet the Good Guys
The forward lines received a nice boost with the return of Joel Ward, and the same lineup is expected tonight. The lines are pretty fluid at this point, but here's a starting point:
Even Strength Play
|5-on-5 data from Behind the Net|
|TEAM||GP||GF||GA||GF/60||SF/60||Sht %||GA/60||SA/60||Save Pct.||+/- per 60|
A modest benefit to the Predators here comes largely due to better team defense (2.6 fewer Shots Against per 60 minutes) and goaltending.
|PP %||16.8 (22nd)||76.1 (28th)||PK %|
|# of PP's||173 (16th)||155 (25th)||# of PK's|
|PK %||77.3 (27th)||17.9 (17th)||PP %|
|# of PK's||150 (27th)||168 (20th)||# of PP's|
This isn't exactly a battle of heavyweights on the special teams, but I'm sure the Preds will try to build off of the momentum from last night's 2 PP goals and a shortie by Joel Ward.
Jeff Deslauriers has faltered of late, along with the rest of the team, after having gotten off to a decent start.
|2009 - Jeff Deslauriers||24||1403||9||12||69||2.95||712||643||.903||1|
Since Dan Ellis played last night, we'd expect to see Pekka Rinne this evening. He'll have to overcome some odd history tonight - in 6 career games against Edmonton, Peks has a 3-1 record, .881 save percentage and 3.57 Goals Against Average. He's won 3 out of his last 4 starts, and 7 of his last 10.
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||30||1650||17||8||75||2.73||794||719||.906||2|
Much like Carolina last week, this could be a "trap game" for the Preds, but this one is much more dangerous. While the Hurricanes lacked several key players, the Oilers are well-rested, relatively healthy (although the loss of Ales Hemsky is huge), and are looking to make a strong statement on home ice.
Roll out all the cliches about playing on the road (surviving the energy of the opponent during the opening minutes, etc.), because they certainly apply tonight. These two teams have split their season series 1-1 so far, with the Oilers embarrassing the Preds in Nashville back in October, then avenging that with a 6-3 victory last month. Can the Preds take the advantage this evening? Tune in at 8:00 Central (FS-TN, no HD) and find out...