Alright, folks. The Nashville Predators are back home after a two-day break to take on the winless Edmonton Oilers, a team with high Stanley Cup aspirations.
The old saying goes that a great team coming off multiple losses is just going to take it out on the next opponent, and and with that the Predators have to be ready to play a clean game because an 0-3-0 start for Edmonton will spell real trouble for them.
The Predators took their second loss of 2023-24 to the Boston Bruins on Saturday, another game they had a chance to win heading into the third period, but an untimely penalty at a critical juncture led to them getting their second penalty shot goal scored on them through three games.
In the three games sitting at 1-2-0, the Predators have played well enough against quality competition to be undefeated. So with that, let’s look at my three keys to beating the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
Nashville Predators Key #1: Don’t Let Leon Draisaitl Beat You
Yeah, I know. Easier said than done. Leon Draisaitl has absolutely crushed the Predators in his career, with 35 points in 23 games. And these points have directly led to the Predators having a very hard time with the Oilers in past matchups.
Of Draisaitl’s 35 career points against Nashville, 12 of those are power play goals and five are game-winning goals. And a shooting percentage of an asinine 35 percent.
So yeah, it should be imperative that the Predators keep Draisaitl contained. That might mean taking less offensive chances to avoid getting beat up ice, and even more so, you really have to keep this at even strength.
The Predators will need to make the other Edmonton lines beat them. If they can limit Draisaitl’s scoring chances to minimal, then I give the Predators a great chance to win at home to get to 2-2-0 on the young season.
Nashville Predators Key #2: Finally Put it All Together on the Power Play
Look, it’s not for a lack of chances. The Predators are drawing penalties and forcing the opposition into the box. They have 14 power play opportunities through three games, which is among the league leaders so far.
Unfortunately, the Predators have connected on only one of those chances. The Oilers have taken 10 penalties in their first two games. Put them in situations where they have to take the penalty, and then you finally put everything together.
I’m expecting the Oilers to get at least three or four goals in this one. The Predators have to keep up on the scoreboard, which is doable with this new look offense. But you can’t be blanked on the power play again.
The Oilers are not known for their goaltending either, so when you get these power play chances, make the goal make a save. Can’t be overly patient and waste precious second and letting the goalie off the hook without getting tested.
Nashville Predators Key #3: Forsberg, Josi and Evangelista Find the Back of the Net
This trio is expected to score a lot of goals for the Predators in 2023-24, but neither of them have scored yet. Starting with Forsberg, he’s got 14 shots on goal in the first three games. He’s got to break through tonight. He’s due.
Although the Roman Josi isn’t a 20-plus goal scorer necessarily, you’re definitely counting on him to break the drought and get a goal soon. Josi has 11 shots on goal in three games, and will be counted on for the previous key to the game, breaking through on the power play finally.
And then there’s Luke Evangelista, who has been held pointless and has seven shots on goal. He’s getting significantly less ice time, nearly five minutes less, than his ice time down the stretch of last season on a much younger roster.
I’m looking for Evangelista to get more offensive chances in this one against the Oilers and be a bigger part of the offensive attack. Hard to do with such minimal ice time, so let’s see if any lineup shifts happen from Head Coach Andrew Brunette.
Maybe steal a page from the Vancouver Canucks, who scored 12 goals to hand the Oilers their two losses of 2023-24. Including a snowman eight-goal performance in the season-opener, exposing a Oilers goaltending situation that is the weak spot of the team.
Other Games Notes for Oilers @ Predators
It’s a 7 P.M. local puck drop from Bridgestone Arena. These two teams last met on December 19, 2022 in Nashville, ending in a thrilling 4-3 overtime win for the Predators.
You may remember this was Thomas Novak‘s return to the lineup and season debut. He was here to stay and ended up finishing third on the team in points with 43. Alexandre Carrier had the game-winner in overtime.
Historically the Predators have faired pretty well against the Oilers, with 45 wins, 31 regulation losses, four overtime losses, and three ties. It will be their 84th all-time meeting with Edmonton.
Mattias Ekholm will make his first trip to Nashville as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. He was traded at the 2023 trade deadline, bringing back to the Predators Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, a 2023 first round pick used to take Tanner Molendyk and an additional 4th round pick for 2024.
Ryan O’Reilly has a lot of history going up against the Edmonton Oilers, with 44 games and tallying 31 points. Josi has 19 points in 29 career games against Edmonton.
Still unclear if Luke Schenn will be able to return after missing two games with a lower body injury. He’s not listed on the injury report, and Edmonton has no players listed on their injury report.