at NASHVILLE PREDATORS
March 25th, 2013
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Season series tied 1-1
A month ago the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers had yet to play a game against each other in 2013. Tonight they wrap up their season series in an important game for both teams’ playoff hopes.
(11-12-7, 3rd in Northwest)
The Oilers just finished up a four-game homestand with a 1-1-2 record after completing a 3-4-2 road trip. In that stretch were their two previous games against Nashville, a 6-0 loss and a 3-2 win.
Sam Gagner (12G-16A) leads the Oilers in scoring this season, partly thanks to seven points in his last seven games. Only one of those points has come against Nashville, and the Preds will be looking to keep it that way.
After that nasty center-ice bouncer he gave up to David Legwand a few weeks ago and an 11-for-13 performance next night against Chicago, Devan Dubnyk (8-9-6, 2.71 GAA, .918 SV%) has gone 2-0-2 in his last four starts. That stretch included a 35-save shutout against the Colorado Avalanche on March 12th.
Others to watch
(13-13-6, 4th in Central)
Early in the season Nashville was great defensively but couldn’t score. These days it’s the other way around: they’ve averaged 3.67 goals/game over their last nine, but given up 3.00/game.
Patric Hornqvist (3G-5A in 14 games) is due to return to the lineup tonight after healing up from his second stint on injured reserve this season. He’s been one of the driving forces of the Nashville Predators offense for the last few years and was effective in his earliest games this season.
Pekka Rinne (12-10-5, 2.32, .911) looked good last time out against Columbus, giving up one goal on the power play and another when Mike Fisher tipped a Columbus shot past him. The question is whether that was the start of a new trend of better performances or a lull in a trend of mediocre ones. The big guy is finally getting some goal support, so maybe his confidence will be back up tonight.
Others to watch
After a moribund start to the season, Mike Fisher (9G-8A) has begun to show signs of recovery. He has seven points, five of which have been goals, in his last six games. A good portion of that production has come since being teamed back up with Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn.
The Shea Weber (6G-13A) machine continued to roll last game with a power play goal. He now has 11 points in his last 10 games and has registered at least one shot on goal in every game since the February 10th shutout loss to Chicago.
If the Predators really want to make the playoffs, they have to keep pace with the Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks. That makes this game against a team further down the Western Conference pecking order a must-win.
The good news is that they have it in them to beat the Oilers. Edmonton gives up an average of 2.83 goals/game, and Nashville’s offense has been hot lately. Put that together with another strong performance from Pekka Rinne, and the playoff dream has a chance of staying alive a little longer – but only if the team continues to play the way it has recently.