Predators vs Oilers preview: The Young & The Restless

EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 17: Magnus Paajarvi #91 of the Edmonton Oilers is chased into the corner by Jonathon Blum #7 of the Nashville Predators in second period action October 17, 2011 at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

Two of the NHL's youngest teams meet up tonight at Bridgestone Arena (7:00 p.m. Central, no local TV), as the Nashville Predators play host to the Edmonton Oilers. Lately these two have been headed in opposite directions, as the Oilers lost their 6th game in the last 8 Monday night at Dallas, while the Preds have gone 7-0-4 in their last 11, good enough to lift them up into 4th place in the Western Conference.

REMEMBER: Bring your used hockey equipment to tonight's game, and donate it to the Sled Preds.

So let's take a look at how these teams stack up...

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Tale of the Tape

Edmonton (10-8-2) at Nashville (10-5-4)
EDM Offense vs. NSH Defense NSH Offense vs. EDM Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 EDM Offense  2.1 (22nd)   24.9 (28th)   8.4 (11th)  2.2 (9th)  29.8 (17th)   926 (10th)   EDM Defense 
 NSH Defense  2.2 (9th) 32.4 (28th) 933 (6th)  2.5 (11th)  26.0 (26th) 9.6 (4th)  NSH Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
EDM PP vs. NSH PK NSH PP vs. EDM PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 EDM 5-on-4 7.8 (4th) 51.8 (12th) 15.2 (5th) 4.9 (10th) 41.1 (4th) 882 (15th)  EDM 4-on-5
 NSH 4-on-5 4.7 (9th) 55.8 (23rd) 917 (5th) 5.7 (18th) 44.1 (24th) 12.8 (11th)  NSH 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

This matchup poses some interesting dynamics, because in 5-on-5 I see an advantage for the Preds (those averages are still weighed down by those awful opening games while Fisher & Erat were hurt), whereas the Oilers have played well on special teams. If Nashville can get back to playing disciplined hockey and keeping the game at even strength, that's probably their best chance at success.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers are a classic "future's so bright, I gotta wear shades" type of team. The young talent they have up front are the envy of the league, whether Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, or the current rookie scoring leader Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who added a goal against Dallas last night.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, is the performance which Edmonton is getting in goal, as veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has finally delivered the type of play the Oilers were hoping for when they signed him to a major contract back in 2009.


Nikolai Khabibulin

#35 / Goalie / Edmonton Oilers

6-1

206

Jan 13, 1973



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2011 - Nikolai Khabibulin 14 808 8 4 2 25 1.86 388 363 .936 2

Per TSN, their projected lines for last night were as follows, just to give a rough guide on what to expect tonight:

Forwards:
Smyth - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Hall - Horcoff - Jones
Paajarvi - Gagner - Hemsky
Lander - Belanger - Eager
Defence:
Smid - Gilbert
Peckham - Petry
Teubert - Chorney

Nashville Predators

Earning points in 12 of their last 13 games, the Preds have slowly but surely climbed their way up the Western Conference standings, and are perhaps positioned as well as they have been all season, now that the lineup is relatively healthy (only Teemu Laakso remains on IR). 

As usual, the Predators don't have a single scorer carrying the load right now, with 7 players ranging from 15 to 11 points. Back in October, the Preds got thumped pretty handily (3-1) by the Oilers at Rexall Place, but that was with a much different cast.

Perhaps the hottest hand on the team has belonged to Shea Weber, who has 2 goals and 4 assists in his last four games. He leads the league in Plus/Minus, and is 5th in ice time per game (Ryan Suter is 2nd). 


Shea Weber

#6 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-4

232

Aug 14, 1985



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Shea Weber 19 3 11 14 19 16 1 1 0 61 4.9

So can the Preds dispatch a tired Edmonton team tonight, and have enough left in the tank to take on Minnesota tomorrow night? We'll see...


Western Standings

GP W-L-OT Pts
Minnesota Wild 20 12-5-3 27
Chicago Blackhawks 21 12-6-3 27
San Jose Sharks 18 12-5-1 25
Nashville Predators 19 10-5-4 24
Dallas Stars 20 12-8-0 24
Detroit Red Wings 19 11-7-1 23
Phoenix Coyotes 19 10-6-3 23
Los Angeles Kings 20 10-7-3 23
St. Louis Blues 19 10-7-2 22
Edmonton Oilers 20 10-8-2 22
Vancouver Canucks 20 10-9-1 21
Colorado Avalanche 21 9-11-1 19
Calgary Flames 19 8-10-1 17
Anaheim Ducks 20 6-10-4 16
Columbus Blue Jackets 20 5-13-2 12
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