Nashville Predators: Western Canada Tour Rolls Through Edmonton

(Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Nashville Predators’ trip to Western Canada started well with a win in Winnipeg. They look to continue the momentum against the Oilers.

Going into the season, we would have expected this meeting between the Nashville Predators & Edmonton Oilers to be between two Stanley Cup contenders. That is not the case. Edmonton has struggled throughout the season & haven’t lived up to high expectations. They are currently the third-worst team in the Western Conference & sit sixteen points out of the final wildcard slot.

The Predators have won their last five games, including a thriller on Tuesday night in Winnipeg. They continue their Western Canada swing tonight & have two more games on the road trip before returning to Nashville next Tuesday. Nashville’s next three opponents aren’t currently in line for playoff berths, but each will be excited to host the Central Division’s current standard-bearer.

Can The Oilers Turn Things Around?

The Oilers are coming off a successful trip to California. They defeated the Los Angeles Kings & Anaheim Ducks before coming up short against the San Jose Sharks. A 2-1 stretch on the road against likely playoff teams shows that Edmonton can’t be overlooked.

Not that anyone would overlook a team with Connor McDavid on the roster. McDavid has the third-most points in the NHL with 75. He leads the Oilers in goals, assists & most other relevant offensive categories. Unfortunately for McDavid, the rest of his team hasn’t been able to pull their weight.

Leon Draisaitl has 57 points in a typical season for him, but it’s a big drop-off to anybody else on the roster. Milan Lucic has 31 points & hasn’t scored a goal since December 23. With 50 points or more three out of the last four seasons, Edmonton certainly expected more out of him. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has missed the last month and a half due to injury and Edmonton hasn’t found anyone to replace his output. Ryan Strome has been on a roll recently, scoring five goals over Edmonton’s last six games.

Edmonton took advantage of the trade deadline to dump some of their more experienced players. Patrick Maroon was sent to New Jersey while Mark Letestu went to Columbus in a three-team deal also involving Nashville. The Oilers have used the Entry Draft to build their team over the years, and they’ll be in the lottery again.

It’s likely we’ll see Pontus Aberg tonight. One of the heroes of last year’s playoff run, Aberg found it hard to get ice time this season. He was traded to Edmonton last week & got an assist in his first game with the Oilers. He’ll get more opportunities to shine in Edmonton, & may be motivated by playing his former team tonight.

Zack Kassian missed the San Jose game with a leg injury while Kris Russell has been out the last two with a hand injury. Russell is Edmonton’s top-scoring defenseman with 21 points. Fellow defenseman Adam Larsson will also be out, as he’s flown home to Sweden for his father’s funeral.

Return of the Fish Imminent

The Nashville Predators have no notable injuries & everyone should be available for tonight. Most of the speculation surrounding the Predators today concerns the potential return of Mike Fisher. He’s expected to dress any game now, and tonight would be a good time to work him back into the system.

This is the first night of a back to back for Nashville. With another game on Sunday, I’d expect Pekka Rinne in goal tonight while Juuse Saros gets the nod Friday night in Vancouver. Here is the projected lineup.

Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Ryan Hartman

Kevin Fiala – Kyle Turris – Craig Smith

Scott Hartnell – Nick Bonino – Calle Jarnkrok

Austin Watson – Colton Sissons – Viktor Arvidsson

Defense

Roman Josi – Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin – Yannick Weber

Goaltenders

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Nashville’s next victory will give General Manager David Poile his 1,320th of his career & the record for most regular-season victories for a GM.

What to Expect

Edmonton has the worst PP% & PK% in the National Hockey League. If the Nashville Predators’ special teams come to play, that should be the difference in the game.

These are two organizations heading in opposite directions. Nashville is trying to win a Cup while Edmonton is looking at draft position. Putting aside Edmonton’s struggles this season, Nashville has had their number in recent years. The Predators have won the last eleven meetings with the Oilers, stretching over the last four seasons. For whatever reason, the Oilers can’t beat the Predators.

They probably shouldn’t tonight, but you can never count out the most gifted player in hockey. If Edmonton pulls off the upset tonight, Connor McDavid will have something to do with it. Stopping him will be Nashville’s top priority.

Follow the Game

Fox Sports Tennessee’s game coverage will begin with Predators LIVE! Pregame at 8:30 PM ET/7:30 PM CT. The puck will drop just after thirty minutes later. You can listen to the game on 102.5 The Game.