By Amanda DiPaolo
Edmonton Oilers 23-25-10
Nashville Predators 38-25-10
After their 3-1 loss against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was asked to discuss Nashville’s strong play against the Red Wings this season. After all, the Predators already won the season series with one game still to be played against the two foes.
Instead of commenting on the stellar play of Pekka Rinne, the defensive duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter or the consistent offense of Martin Erat and David Legwand, Howard talked about Detroit and how teams get pumped to play the Red Wings.
“It is just like any team,” he said of Nashville, adding, “teams try to measure themselves to us. It is like how we were excited to play Washington; they were really excited to play us. They are battling for a playoff position and they played hard.”
Is it excitement that makes Nashville play so well against teams ahead of them in the standings? Do the Predators have something to prove when they play teams with more points?
Howard’s back-handed compliment brings something else to the forefront for discussion, why do the Predators have such a hard time against some teams that are struggling? Case in point is Nashville’s Tuesday night opponent, Edmonton.
The Oilers have winning records against two teams in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche (3-0-1), and the Predators (2-0-1). Their next best record comes against Chicago where they split the season series at 2 games each. If you are the Predators, keeping company with Colorado is not where you want to be when you are fighting for a playoff spot.
Nashville and Edmonton will take to the ice in very different positions. The Predators have won three in a row and are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games. Their latest win was one of the more dramatic victories in recent history for the Predators with rookie and Tennessee native Blake Geoffrion recording his first career hat trick, which included two goals in the final two minutes of the game to send the tilt to overtime. The Oilers, by contrast, have lost six straight, after having won three in a row, including the last meeting between the two clubs.
But the team Edmonton will have on the ice Tuesday night will look much different than it did last time Edmonton faced off against the Predators.
Dustin Penner has been traded to Los Angeles. Additionally, the month of March has been unkind to the Oilers in terms of injuries.
Taylor Hall is out for the season with a high ankle sprain. Ales Hemsky is also out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Sam Gagner won’t play until next season with a hand injury.
Gilbert Brule is out indefinitely with a concussion. Shawn Horcoff hurt his foot and was expected to miss a week. He should be returning to the lineup any game now.
Two more players are questionable for Tuesday night’s game according to TSN.ca. Colin Fraser and Jean-Francois Jacques both sustained foot injuries over the weekend.
With a depleted lineup, the Oilers will have less spark in their offense than usual, but they should not be counted out with Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark leading the way of youngsters in Edmonton trying to make a name for themselves in the NHL.
Despite the injuries, most of the Oilers who have done damage against the Predators are still in the lineup. Edmonton has scored 7 goals in three games. Two goals came from Andrew Cogliano. Other goals were added by Jordan Eberle, former Predator Ryan Jones, Jim Vandemeer, Taylor Hall and Dustin Penner. Only Hall and Penner will not be in the lineup Tuesday night.
Predators goalie, Pekka Rinne, has struggled against the Oilers this season. With a career record of 6-2-1 against the Oilers, Rinne’s goals against average and save percentage against Edmonton is hard to believe.
Rinne boasts an overall .930 save percentage this season, but his career totals against the Oilers is .894 percent. Rinne’s goals against average this season is 2.09 second best in the League behind only Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins (2.08), but against Edmonton, Rinne has a 3.05 goals against average.
With Chicago idle, the Predators have an opportunity to continue their climb in the Western Conference standings with a win on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Tuesday’s game is the start of another four-game homestand for Nashville. Tickets are still available for the games, which start at 7 pm.
photo credit: Getty Images
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