The Nashville Predators are back on the road tonight for their third matchup of the season with the Edmonton Oilers.
Away games have been surprisingly kind to the Predators (29-29-10) of late, the club has picked up points in their last six road games. In fact, the last time Nashville went home empty handed from a contest in an opponent’s barn was on January 26th, against the Oilers (24-36-9).
Despite holding the embarrassing honor of being the Western Conference’s last-placed team, Edmonton is an impressive 2-0 against Nashville this season. The Oilers claimed a 3-0 win in Nashville on (American) Thanksgiving Day and pounded the Predators 5-1 in the two squads’ most recent meeting.
Can the Predators keep their road point streak going and find some redemption out west against the Oilers tonight? Three things to watch for:
- When it rains, it pours: One of the youngest clubs in the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers have a lot of raw talent in their forward group. The Oilers organization has used several No. 1 overall draft picks on forwards, including: Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Nail Yakupov (2012). While the jury may still be out on whether all three of these forwards will one day be NHL Hall of Famers, their ability to strike quickly and repeatedly is unquestioned. In both of the previous meetings, the Oilers have scored back-to-back goals in under five minutes of game time (including two in a single minute on the Thanksgiving Day game).
- Living right on the road: If their last meeting with the Oilers is thrown out, the Predators have claimed points in their previous nine road games. Even in some of Nashville’s strongest seasons (e.g. 2006-2007) the team has still been average in contests away from Nashville. Over the past few months, however, many elements of the team’s game have been better on the road. The Predators power play and penalty kill units have specifically been stronger in away games recently. Coincidently, the Oilers have also recorded a better away record as well this season, the club has lost the most games at home (20) in the Western Conference.
- Back-to-back, again: In a bit of a scheduling anomaly, the Predators embark on their third-straight set of two games in two nights. Not only strenuous on the skaters, back-to-back games can be particularly wearing on a club’s goaltenders and often result in a team’s backup netminder getting time in the crease for one of the two games. Goaltender Carter Hutton started the Predators second half of their first back-t0-back last week (Nashville won both games), but netminder Pekka Rinne was in the crease for the team’s most recent pair of games (won the first, lost the second). While Rinne said he felt fine after the two starts in two nights this weekend, its quite possible that Nashville head coach Barry Trotz will play Hutton tonight, against the “weaker” of the two upcoming opponents (Nashville plays the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow).
The game begins at 8:30 p.m. (CST) tonight; goaltender Ben Scrivens is the projected starter for the Oilers and (as detailed above) Hutton may get the call for Nashville.