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Game 73: Edmonton @ Nashville – Back to the Well Again


Photo by: Frederick Breedon, Getty Images

The Oilers come to an almost sold-out Bridgestone Arena tonight to take on the 4th place Nashville Predators. With Detroit dropping a rarity against the Capitals at the Joe last night, the Predators have a chance to extend their hold on the coveted home-ice that 4th in the Conference secures.

Edmonton had some bright spots earlier in the year and torched the Predators at Rexall Place and Bridgestone Arena, but their problems stem from being on the road. Edmonton has a ton of flash with youngsters like Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins but will it be enough to out-work the stingy Predator defense? All this will be answered in a few short hours. Puck drop is at 7:00 P.M. and very limited tickets (if any) are available.

This Year’s Series: 1-2-0 Home: 0-1-0 Away: 1-1-0

Looking at the Oilers: The Oilers have what many believe to be a perfect blend of youth and experience. You have the vigor and speed of Hall, Paajarvi, Eberle, Jones and Nugent-Hopkins alongside veteran talent like Smyth, Gagner and Horcoff. The Oilers are all about offensive production, but where they excel on that side of the ice, they lack on the other.

Defense and goaltending have been the Achilles heel of the Oilers. The defensive core for the Oilers, judging by their last few games lineup, is a combind -40 on the year. It’s no surprise that both starting goaltenders for the Oilers, Dubnyk and Khabibulin, have losing records.

Looking at the Predators: On Sunday, it started out like another one of those “here we go again” games when the Ducks took the early lead on the Predators with a 2-on-1 short-handed goal by Smith-Pelly. The Predators, however, managed to clamp down after that and hold the Ducks to that one goal while Hornqvist and Fisher delivered in the third to take the lead. Legwand finished the Ducks off with an empty-netter and the Predators finally tied the Detroit Red Wings in points this year and hold the tie-breaker for 4th in the Conference.

The play of Anders Lindback in that game was inspiring. Many times this year, Lindback was hung out to dry by the defensemen in front and a lack of goal support was another reason Lindback had not won a game since December 9th. For a back-up goaltender to step in and win a game this deep in the season is huge. It gives the starter some much needed rest and builds the confidence of the team that they have not one, but two reliable back-stops in net.

For the Oilers to win: Rush the Predators with speed and a hard forecheck. This is the key to winning against Nashville and keeping them on their heels and causing turnovers in the neutral zone. The Predators have breakout speed with Martin Erat streaking down, but if the Oilers can throttle that speed and keep the play in the Predators zone, it’ll be a snipers delight and the Oilers are well equiped with many.

It’ll be a raucous crowd at the arena down the stretch, and any incoming teams would be well advised to try and take the crowd out early. If the Oilers can jump out to an early lead, this may take the crowd out for a bit, but expect the chants and roars and standing O’s to come out in full force for the duration of the contest, especially with the upcoming appearance of the prodigal prodigy.

For the Predators to win: Out hustle and out muscle. The Predators should be getting Gaustad back into the lineup soon, but until then, it’ll be up to Weber, Suter and Gill to muscle the Oiler forwards off the puck and break it out of the zone effectively. Jack Hillen, although small in statue, more than makes up for that in instinct and positioning. He uses his skillset to out-work the opponent and cut off the angles for them to be effective, just as advertised by our friends on many Islanders blogs.

Even though Tennessee didn’t get one of the superstars in it’s sights, the Predators are getting one of their long-lost scorers by week’s end. The return of Radulov to the lineup is a huge offensive boost and will allow for Trotz to roll possibly the three most dangerous forward lines in the NHL. The arena will be a-buzz with the news of getting Radulov back and having the Predators back home after a pretty successful road trip that won 5 out of a possible 8 points.


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