at NASHVILLE PREDATORS
March 8th, 2013
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Tonight the Nashville Predators meet the Edmonton Oilers for the first of this season’s three games, all of which will be played this month. Edmonton, despite being terrible the last two seasons, has won the last two season series between the teams with a record of 5-2-1.
(8-10-5, 4th in Northwest)
In one sense, the Edmonton Oiler’s couldn’t be much more like the Nashville Predators. They’re slumping badly (3-5-2 in their last 10 games) and sit fourth in their division. But in another sense they couldn’t be more different – the Oiler’s special teams are among the best in the league, and their defense gives up lots of shots and lots of goals.
The Oilers’ second line is nothing to scoff at, either. Sam Gagner (7G-14A) leads the team in scoring.
Others to watch
The defense playing in front of Devan Dubnyk (6-8-4, 2.79 GAA, .917 SV%) isn’t particularly good, but he’s been solid in his 19 starts despite that. Nashville will hope to catch him on an off night.
If Preds fans are lucky, they won’t see any Nail Yakupov (6G-6A) celebrations tonight. He’s playing alongside Gagner, though, which could be scary.
(9-9-5, 4th in Central)
It’s Hal Gill Growth Chart night at Bridgestone Arena. Maybe the Preds will take that to heart and show that they’ve grown since adding three new players to the roster. A good place to start would be special teams, where both the power play (13.7 percent, T-26th in NHL) and penalty kill (77.2 percent, 26th in NHL) have been far below expectations.
Pekka Rinne (8-8-4, 2.25, .914) has lost five of his last six starts, and his only win in that stretch came while giving up four goals against Dallas. Part of the problem is the defense playing in front of him. As for the other part, Nashville fans will be looking to Pekka to start doing something about it tonight.
According to coach Barry Trotz, waiver wire acquisitions Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk will both be playing tonight. So will Milwaukee Admirals call-up Victor Bartley. Everyone in Nashville is hoping they can provide some spark to what has been a lifeless hockey team for nearly a month.
Others to watch
Martin Erat (3G-9A) is the team’s second-leading scorer but hasn’t tallied a goal since the team’s now-nearly-forgotten 6-1 win over St. Louis on February 5th. In practice today he was on the third line with Craig Smith (3G-2A) and Bobby Butler.
The Nashville Predators are bringing three new faces to the ice tonight in an attempt to breathe new life into an all-around moribund team. Edmonton has lots of offensive weapons but not much defense to speak of. A return to form from Pekka Rinne is the real key, but some scoring from the new additions – or even the slumping old guard – would help a lot.