Game Preview: Nashville Predators vs Edmonton Oilers 12/19/2022

The Predators are getting healthier and hoping to end the year better than they started as they face off against Edmonton—losers of two in a row—for the second time in a week.

The Edmonton Oilers

Overall Record: 17-14-1 (4th Pacific)
Last 10 Games: 5-4-1
Last week’s results:
Dec. 12th @ Minnesota Wild - 2-1 loss
Dec. 13th @ Nashville Predators - 6-3 win
Dec. 15th vs St. Louis Blues - 4-3 OT loss
Dec. 17th vs Anaheim Ducks - 4-3 win

Since last week’s preview for the Edmonton Oilers matchup, not much has changed for Edmonton.  Last week, their record in their previous ten was 6-4-0. This time around, it’s 5-4-1 as they split their last two games at home—a 4-3 OT loss to St. Louis and 4-3 win against Anaheim.

Connor McDavid is on a 12-game point streak, adding two goals and an assist in the last two games.  And while McDavid is on an nine-game point streak against Nashville, the 7-4 Edmonton Oilers victory back on November 1st was the only game in McDavid’s career where he scored multiple goals.  Must be nice for Edmonton to win eight straight without needing multi-goal games from the best player in the universe.  Instead, McDavid was limited to just under a point per game in that time.

Last week, I talked about Leon Draisaitl and of course, he didn’t disappoint the Oilers fans.  He registered two goals and three assists last week against Nashville, bringing his career totals against Nashville to 22 GP, 22 goals, 13 points and 35 points.  We’ve all heard the legend behind Draisaitl vs the Predators enough at this point, so let’s move on by discussing the player that scored more goals than Draisaitl last week.

Zach Hyman entered last week’s matchup with a career vs. Nashville of 10 GP, one goal and five assists.  But instead, Hyman scored twice in the first period to retake the lead after the Cody Glass opening goal, and put a cap on the game in the third period with the Oilers’ fifth hat trick against Nashville in franchise history.  The two teams have played 82 times (with Nashville leading the series overall at 44-31-3-4); however, three of the hat tricks have come in the midst of the Oilers’ eight-game winning streak: Hyman last game, Evander Kane in November, and Draisaitl in April earlier this year.

Edmonton just extended their goaltender Stuart Skinner, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the start tonight.  Skinner enters the game at 9-8-1 this season with a save percentage of 91.5%.  He has been performing better than his partner Jack Campbell—who Nashville faced last week—so it doesn’t get any easier for the Predators.

Player to Watch: Edmonton D Tyson Barrie

It’s too easy to pick the big names against Nashville, but this is one based purely on my gut.  Defender Tyson Barrie has had a pretty good season, posting 4 goals and 25 points, including 8 points in his last five games (two of them against Nashville).  Barrie is fourth on the team according to Evolving-Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR), with his only weakness coming on the penalty kill.  Still, the Oilers have proved this season that anyone can go off against the Predators, and I have a feeling Barrie will be picking up assists tonight against Nashville.

Nashville Predators

Overall Record: 12-13-4 (6th Central)
Last 10 Games: 3-5-2
Last week’s results:
Dec. 12th @ St. Louis Blues - 1-0 OT loss
Dec. 13th vs Edmonton Oilers - 6-3 loss
Dec. 15th @ Winnipeg Jets - 2-1 OT loss
Dec. 17th @ Colorado Avalanche - 3-1 loss

The Nashville Predators have struggled this month. In the month of December, the team has managed a record of 2-4-2 and have lost the last six straight.  The offense has been one of the biggest culprits—the Predators have only scored more than 3 goals this month three times, twice in the wins against New Jersey and New York, and once in the loss to Edmonton last week.  In fact, the last week has only seen four goals in four games, with no player scoring more than once.

Still, Nashville gets some reinforcements into the lineup.  Forward Tommy Novak has been recalled to Nashville from the Milwaukee Admirals and will slot in with Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund as well as playing on the power play.  Additionally, Nashville saw the return of Jeremy Lauzon last game, and Alexandre Carrier returns tonight to retake his spot next to Mattias Ekholm.  But more on that duo later—the good news now is that the defense corps is getting closer to being fully healthy again.

This is where I ask you to stay with me.  I just have a good feeling about this game.  Edmonton struggled against St. Louis and Anaheim last week, and I think Nashville played very well in their loss to Colorado, so it just feels like Nashville will find a way to overcome the Oilers.  And just so I have a complete prediction that will likely be wrong, I think Roman Josi will have 3 points for Nashville in a 3-1 win behind goaltender Juuse Saros, who is confirmed to get the start for the Predators.

Player(s) to Watch: Nashville D Mattias Ekholm & Alexandre Carrier

I picked Ekholm last week, and for good reason, as he’s been excellent at 5 on 5 this year—perhaps the best defender overall for the Predators.  With Carrier’s return, Nashville gets back an exceptional pair on the blueline.

Among all defense pairs with more than 100 minutes of 5 on 5 time, Carrier and Ekholm rank first in the NHL in expected goals allowed (1.56 xGA/60) and expected goal percentage at 65.6%.  At goals allowed, the duo ranks third (0.97 GA/60); however, they only have a goals-for percentage of 44.1%—meaning they are putting up the defense needed by this team, but the Predators are getting outscored despite the best efforts of Ekholm and Carrier.