The Edmonton Oilers are used to having a field day with the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Oilers crushed the Predators 6-2 and 6-3 last season and in 2010-2011 the Predators lost another home game to Edmonton 4-0. That is a whopping 16-5 goal differential and the Predators ship is already taking on water going 2-5-0 in their last seven.
The Oilers boast some of the best young offensive talent in the league. At just 23 years old, Sam Gagner (seen above scoring on the Predators) is leading the Oilers with 21 points. The lead in goals is held by the rangy veteran at just 29 years old, Ales Hemsky with 8 markers. With talent like Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Schultz and Eberle, it’s become a head-scratcher why the Oilers don’t lead the league in scoring (26th in goals scored, Nashville is 30th).
The goaltending for the Oilers has been par/sub-par with Devan Dubnyk getting the majority of the starts and posting a 6-8-4 record. Stanley Cup winner Nikolai Khabibulin has a 2-2-1 record with slightly better numbers than Dubnyk, but Khabibulin’s proclivity for injury may have the Oilers sticking with the younger Canadian-born netminder.
The Predators made some interesting moves this week after their 5-1 loss to the L.A. Kings. Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk were picked up off the waiver wire and could see ice time against the Oilers and Wild this weekend. Victor Bartley was also called up from Milwaukee to add some offensive spark for the blueline. The Predators brass are hoping this will kick-start the lineup and help the Predators to right the ship in the shortened season where a losing stint like the Predators are currently mired in could lead to cellar dwelling come the end of April.
Many have called out the play of the veteran leaders of the Nashville Predators; namely Erat, Legwand, Hannan and Kostitsyn. Their play has been unnoticeable to downright abysmal the last few games and maybe this injection of youth into the lineup will light a fire under these players. Pekka Rinne needs some help on defense, also. Too many times, especially highlighted in the L.A. game, Rinne got hung out when a simple clearing of the puck could have saved at least two goals from going into the net. The puck transition game out of the defensive zone is becoming an apparent Achilles heel for the Predators. Without proper passing out of the zone or a defensive puck-carrier to lead the Predators up the ice from the back-end (such as what Ryan Suter used to bring to the ice) the Predators will continue to struggle with offensive presence and constantly be pushed back over the neutral ice into scoring chances for the opposing team.
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