The Edmonton Oilers will close their six-game homestand on a five-game winning streak. They did not play well on Wednesday despite defeating Florida, and head coach Todd McLellan and the players are looking to respond with a much better effort.
McLellan has chosen to start Cam Talbot, the right move in my eyes, and he said tonight’s game will have some impact on who starts in goal tomorrow in Calgary. However, the Oilers are focused solely on the Nashville Predators, and once again they need to take advantage of an injury-depleted lineup playing their second game in as many nights.
This morning it looked like the Preds would be without their two best defenders.
However, the Predators just activated P.K Subban. He skated this morning, was ripping one timers and has been activated off of the IR at 1:30 pm. At his avail this morning David Poile said they expected him back after the All-Star break, but then less than an hour later the Predators tweeted they had activated Subban and will expect him to be back in the lineup tonight. Very odd for Poile to say after AS break and then activate Subban less than an hour later. Maybe Poile meant after the Inauguration.
Roman Josi is out with a concussion and Poile expects him back after the break as well, which could mean tomorrow. Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber had been slotted in the Predators top-four defence, and that is a major drop off from Subban and Josi.
Subban will be a huge boost, but he likely has some rust and Connor McDavid’s line needs to take advantage of that. McDavid can produce against top defenders, and if his line is going tonight they should be able to create numerous chances.
Matt Benning draws back in after sitting out with the flu. Jujhar Khaira was placed on the IR and I’d guess we will see Matt Hendricks back in for him. The Oilers had an optional skate this morning with very few players.
Talbot starts his league-leading 43rd game.
Pekka Rinne had the night off in Calgary yesterday and he’ll start tonight. He has won his last six starts against the Oilers, posting a sparkling .965sv% and a 1.00 GAA. He’s also had two shutouts.
- The Oilers have had a favourable home schedule as of late. They’ve faced numerous teams on the second half of back-to-back games. The Oilers are 6-2 so far in home games where the opposition played the night before in Calgary or Vancouver. They lost to Dallas and the Rangers but have won their last seven over Florida, Calgary, Vancouver, LA, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg.
The Flames have hosted six games where the opposition played the night before in Edmonton or Vancouver. Calgary is 4-2, with losses to New Jersey and Washington and wins over San Jose, Vancouver, Anaheim and Toronto.
Vancouver has had three such home games this year and they are 1-0-2 with a victory over Arizona, an OT loss to Chicago and a SO loss to Calgary. Vancouver often gets the team on their third game in four nights, but usually it is after a day off after consecutive games in Calgary or Edmonton.
- The schedule seems to change from year-to-year and next year the Flames could have more. The Oilers have taken advantage of the schedule thus far and a victory over Nashville would make them 7-2. Winning the “should win” games is a big step in the evolution of this team.
- Oscar Klefbom is currently seventh among defenders in shots on goal with 118. He is behind Josi (124), Tory Krug and Dougie Hamilton (134), Dustin Byfuglien (144), Aaron Ekblad (154) and Brent Burns (177). Klefbom has quietly taken a big jump in getting shots on goal. His career high was 98 in 60 games two years ago.
He is 29th in total TOI among defenders, sitting at 1,009 minutes. He is tied for 11th in goals with seven, but he only has nine assists. He has improved a lot and getting pucks through and on net, and the next step in his evolution will be to add more assists and make a few quicker decisions on outlets passes.
He also has zero penalty minutes. He and John Carlsson (984 minutes) have yet to take one minor penalty, which is very impressive, because both play against skilled forwards fairly often. Last season Chris Tanev played 1,501 minutes (21:45/game in 69 games) and had the lowest PIMs with eight.
- My sense, and McLellan was not tipping his hand at all, is if the Oilers win there is a better chance we’ll see Brossoit tomorrow. However, if Talbot plays great and doesn’t face a lot of shots the Oilers might want to just roll with him. I’d go with Brossoit tomorrow.
- I’ve noticed a lot of social media chatter about RNH’s “moustache” so I spoke to him about today.
JG: How much is the power of your moustache helping?
RNH: “I think it has been the turning point of the season for me. The muzzy, I have to keep it going as as long as we are winning.”
JG: How long will you run with it. Is it a pre-playoff stache?
RNH: I don’t think it will last that long, but I’ll keep it as long as I’m feeling it.
JG: Maybe it can become like the Burns and Thorton beards?
RNH: The gross, creepy moustache from The Nuge, yeah that’s it.
Dean Millard: How long have you been growing it?
RNH: Let me think, hmm..March last year I think (laughs). No, a couple weeks now. I don’t have the most facial hair by any means, so whatever I do have, you got to enjoy it. Take pride in it.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
McDavid is only one guy you have to worry about playing these guys now. You also have to worry about guys like Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, and Milan Lucic. And if that wasn’t enough to stress you out, you still have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hanging around causing problems for the opposing team. Could you imagine if this team didn’t trade Taylor Hall away? Luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about him anymore.
The Oilers have a high powered offense. They rank seventh in the league in goals scored. Containing their explosive young forwards will be the key to winning this game tonight. Although this team excels in goal scoring, they are average in goal prevention. That is where Nashville can swing this game. If the Predators can jump on them early, it could change the whole complexion of the game.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers continue to roll at home with a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid gets his 30th multi-point game of his career in only his 93rd game, which is a solid 32.2% of his GP where he picks up at least two points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Brandon Davidson has never played against the Nashville Predators. They are the only NHL team he’s hasn’t faced. Earlier this year St.Louis was the only other team he’d never faced prior to this season. He picked up his only point of this season against the Blues on December 19th, and he gets his second point of the year in his first career game versus the Preds.