Predators @ Oilers preview: If at first you don't succeed...

EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 17: Ryan Smyth #94 of the Edmonton Oilers scores the game winning goal on Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators on Ryan Smyth bobble head night. They would add an empty netter and win the game 3-1 on October 17, 2011 at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators continue their road trip tonight in Edmonton, where they'll face the Oilers for the 3rd time already this season, with their final match not until late March. So far, Edmonton has had the upper hand, beating the Preds 6-2 in Nashville last week, and 3-1 in Edmonton back in October.

Can the Predators strike back and reverse a recent slide? Let's find out after the jump...

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Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (10-8-4) at Edmonton (12-9-2)
NSH Offense vs. EDM Defense EDM Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 NSH Offense  2.3 (18th)   25.5 (28th)  9.2 (6th) 2.3 (9th) 32.5 (29th) 928 (8th)  NSH Defense 
 EDM Defense  2.3 (9th) 30.1 (20th)  922 (11th)   2.3 (18th)   25.6 (26th)  9.2 (6th)  EDM Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
NSH PP vs. EDM PK EDM PP vs. NSH PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 NSH 5-on-4 5.2 (19th) 47.3 (17th) 10.9 (18th) 5.9 (16th) 57.1 (27th)  896 (13th)   NSH 4-on-5
 EDM 4-on-5 4.9 (11th) 43.3 (5th) 886 (14th) 7.6 (4th) 49.9 (13th) 15.3 (4th)  EDM 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

While still a sub-par 5-on-5 team, the Oilers have fared better than the Preds so far, and have enjoyed solid special teams performance as well. While they may not be playoff-caliber quite yet (that blueline still stinks), Edmonton does appear to be turning a corner competitively, and aren't the pushover of years past.

Edmonton Oilers

The overall numbers above belie a dramatic split between home & road performance by Edmonton. As Derek Zona wrote over at Copper & Blue, the Oilers have been especially strong on home ice:

The difference between home and road play has created enough material for a year's worth of "home cooking" puns for Gene Principe.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' road woes have been well-documented, but he's not alone.  In fact, outside of the team's veteran core, the entire team has been in deep away from home this season, as evidenced by the scoring chances thus far...    

And yes, RNH may be struggling away from Rexall Place, but he's rapidly pulling away from the field in the NHLrookie scoring race:


8476454_medium

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

#93 / Center / Edmonton Oilers

6-0

171

Apr 12, 1993



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 23 10 14 24 2 6 3 0 1 49 20.4

This is the Oilers' first game back on home ice after splitting a four-game road trip:


Edmonton Oilers   Last 5 Games

@ Colorado Sat 11/26 L 2 - 5
@ Minnesota Fri 11/25 W 5 - 2
@ Nashville Tue 11/22 W 6 - 2
@ Dallas Mon 11/21 L 1 - 4
Chicago Sat 11/19 W 9 - 2


Edmonton Oilers Injuries

Doubtful

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Taylor Hall shoulder 11/28/2011

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Cam Barker ankle 11/11/2011
Taylor Fedun femur 10/03/2011

Nashville Predators

After an entertaining victory over Toronto back on November 17, the Preds have been in a 0-3-1 slide that comes just as the team has enjoyed a healthy lineup. Despite finally having all the intended tools available, the forward lines aren't clicking, and the defense is a shambles outside of the top pairing.


Nashville Predators   Last 5 Games

@ Detroit Sat 11/26 L 1 - 4
@ Minnesota Wed 11/23 L 2 - 3
Edmonton Tue 11/22 L 2 - 6
Columbus Sat 11/19 OT - L 3 - 4
Toronto Thu 11/17 W 4 - 1

Perhaps even more concerning might be the tapering off of Craig Smith's offensive production - might the rookie be slowing down as the grind of the NHL season takes its toll? Despite nearly identical ice time, his shots on net per game have declined from an average of 3.18 over his first 16 games, to 2.16 over the last 6.

Some may wonder if getting bumped off his line with Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson might be the cause here, but early on the Honey Badger was generating chances no matter whom he skated with.


8475225_medium

Craig Smith

#15 / Center / Nashville Predators

6-1

197

Sep 05, 1989



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Craig Smith 22 7 9 16 -2 16 3 0 0 64 10.9

Meanwhile on defense, word came down last night that groin trouble has kept Francis Bouillon at home, so it will be interesting to see how much responsibility Roman Josi takes on in his absence. The danger signs here are blinking furiously, as the strength of the Oilers is their talent & speed up front, while the Preds' vulnerability may be on the blueline right now, with Edmonton being able to match lines as they see fit on home ice.

Make sure to stay up late for our Game Thread, this could be a wild one, folks...

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