With the Trade Deadline behind us, the final chapter of the NHL regular season can now commence, a 19-game dash to the playoffs that will feature intense play and nailbiting scoreboard-watching as a host of other teams compete for limited berths in the post-season. For the Nashville Predators, this begins with a trip through Western Canada and San Jose. Such a journey might cause concern among the fan base, but for the Preds, home vs. road hasn't made much difference this season (they've won 15 and lost 14 at home, won 17 and lost 17 away from Bridgestone), so all that matters right now is earning points in the standings, any way possible.
Yes, even if it means bashing some poor opponent in the face during the waning seconds. Remember, "our captain can beat up your captain".
Follow after the jump as we take a look at tonight's matchup (8:30 p.m. Central on FS-TN) in Edmonton...
After an upcoming road trip the Preds return home Thursday, March 10 vs. Minnesota, so take the OTF Discount and save money on Nashville Predators tickets for this, or any other home game!
As they continue their way through a fundamental rebuild, the Oilers ended up parting with only one major asset yesterday, power forward Dustin Penner, who was tied for the team goal-scoring lead with 21. Copper & Blue was unimpressed with the return on the deal, a defense prospect and two draft picks, considering that Penner was probably the top forward dealt at the deadline. In Edmonton, they're just hoping that they didn't truly swap a difference-making top line forward for a bag of magic beans.
The Oilers are currently in the middle of a four-game homestand, having dropped the first two 5-0 to St. Louis and 3-2 to Boston. They're doing their best to stay ahead of Ottawa for last overall in the NHL, and the best shot at the 1st draft pick at the Entry Draft this summer.
As if they didn't already enough speedy young talent, eh?
If you'll remember the couple times the Preds faced Edmonton, they got stomped 4-0 in Nashville three weeks ago, and before that, on January 23rd, the Predators escaped Rexall Place with a shootout win after blowing two third-period leads. Guys like Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, and (the now-gone) Dustin Penner have given the Preds fits in these previous matchups (even former Pred Ryan Jones got into the act). Can they be held down tonight?
In goal, Devan Dubnyk has gotten most of the duty lately, and he's generally outplayed Nikolai Khabibulin so far:
#40 / Goalie / Edmonton Oilers
May 04, 1986
|2010 - Devan Dubnyk||25||1456||8||9||6||70||2.88||784||714||.911||1|
The Preds have had trouble scoring goals lately, so perhaps the Oilers might provide the cure for those ills? They give up the 4th-most goals in 5-on-5 action, and have the worst penalty kill in the league by a healthy margin. It would certainly be nice to see the Nashville forwards step up and pop a few in, as most of the team's goals have come from the blueline lately. Do lines need to be completely blown up again, perhaps? It's not like there's any of that mysterious "chemistry" on display these days.
On defense, I'll be very interested to see how Jonathon Blum, for whom skating and smarts are his strong suits, fares on that speedy Edmonton ice against wave after wave of burners.
In goal, it's Pekka's crease, plain & simple. He has to be outstanding to give the Preds a chance to win each night, and fortunately he's done that pretty consistently.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||46||2699||22||18||6||97||2.16||1334||1237||.927||4|