The Nashville Predators have the quietest 20 wins in the NHL. The Preds are red-hot going 13-3-2 in their 18 games, so the Oilers can’t afford the mental mistakes they made v. the Kings if they want to avoid their second straight home loss.
Barry Trotz is the second-longest serving coach in the NHL, yet his message hasn’t gotten stale in Nashville. Trotz told me yesterday on my show that his team "needs to play aggressive, and we have to outwork the opposition or we’ll get blown out."
He is straight forward with his players and very realistic about his team. "We don’t have the offensive depth of a Chicago or a San Jose or Detroit, so if we don’t play our style we can’t win."
Sound familiar Oiler fans?
This is exactly what Pat Quinn has been preaching. If you look at the Preds lineup and compare it to the Oilers the stats are fairly close.
The Oilers have four guys with 20+ points: Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule, Lubomir Visnovsky and Dustin Penner, while the Preds have Steve Sullivan, Jason Arnott, Martin Erat and David Legwand.
They both have five players with 7+ goals. Jeff Deslauriers is 8-5-2 with a 2.63 GAA and a .914 SV%. Pekka Rinne is 14-6-2 with a 2.67 GAA and a .908 SV%.
The Oilers have better special teams 16th on the PP and 25th on the PK; while the Preds are 27th on the PP and 29th when short a man.
The Oilers are 3rd in five-on-five scoring with 70 goals, while the Preds are 11th with 60. The Oilers have scored five more goals overall, but they’ve given up eight more.
Statistically there isn’t much difference between the two of them, but it is clear listening to Trotz why his team has five more wins than the Oilers.
"We have cut down on our turnovers the past month, and that has been the difference. We haven’t given away a game in a long time. When we play smart and disciplined we are hard to beat.”
The Predators will rarely out-skill anyone, but for the past six weeks they’ve rarely been outworked. The Oilers better roll up their sleeves and be ready to work or it will be a long night.
Khabibulin speaks for the first time
Nikolai Khabibulin hasn’t been seen or heard since he beat the Blue Jackets on November 16th. He admitted he took a cortisone shot earlier this week, but there has been no discussion of surgery just yet.
He was riding the bike earlier this week and he took the shot with the hope it would speed up his recovery. Once the soreness dissipates he plans on getting back on the bike and hopefully on the ice. Don’t expect him to return until the New Year.
Strudwick playing forward
Ethan Moreau didn’t skate this morning and Pat Quinn said he’ll be a game time decision. Moreau is sick, and if the medical staff doesn’t clear him then Jason Strudwick will draw in and play forward.
Marc Pouliot had another set back after two days of practice and hasn’t skated since. He was probably going to Springfield to get some conditioning but that has been delayed.