The Oilers are riding a three-game winning streak and will welcome last year’s President’s Trophy winners to town for their most difficult test thus far in the early season.
1. If the Oilers win tonight, they’ll stretch their winning streak to four games. That would tie their longest winning streak from the entire 2017-18 season. The 2017-18 Oilers won four in a row before Christmas, beating Minnesota, St. Louis, San Jose, and Montreal, to give us a little bit of a tease that the team was going to mount a mid-season comeback. That didn’t happen. After that four-game streak, they lost seven of their next eight games, effectively erasing the four wins in a row.
2. The Predators will be Edmonton’s biggest challenge of the season thus far. That’s not to dimish how difficult the Oilers’ schedule has been, but the Predators are pretty easily the best team in the league right now. They’ve beaten the Oilers in 12 games in a row and they’ve outscored Edmonton 37 to 15 over that stretch.
3. Like I said, Edmonton’s schedule has been extremely difficult thus far, given their quality of opponents, travel schedule, and late home opener. That said, they’ve received a little bit of scheduling luck the past couple games. Tonight will represent the second time in a row the Oilers will face an opponent playing on the second leg of a back-to-back. The Bruins rolled into Calgary and lost on Wednesday before coming to Edmonton and losing again. The Predators were in Calgary last night and earned a 5-3 win and tonight’s game in Edmonton will be their first back-to-back of the season.
4. Pekka Rinne left last night’s game in Calgary with an injury after colliding with a teammate. He allowed three goals on 18 shots, then Juuse Saros came into the game in relief and stopped all nine shots he faced for the win.
5. Saros has been Nashville’s goalie of the future for some time now. In 51 career NHL games as Rinne’s backup, Saros owns a .923 save percentage. It’ll be interesting to see how Nashville handles their goalie situation beyond this season. Rinne won the Vezina Trophy last season and has been largely excellent throughout his 13 seasons with the Predators. He’s also set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and he turns 36 years old in November.
6. Goaltending has been a key to Nashville’s success, but they’re the league’s best team for a variety of reasons. They rank fourth in goals against on the season and eighth in goals for. They have a loaded top-four blueline and a lethal top line. Much like with Boston, the Oilers will need to shut down the Predators’ top line to win this game.
7. The trio of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg has been the heart of Nashville’s offence, as you’d expect. They’ve combined to score 10 goals through seven games and the line rarely gets scored on. That said, Nashville isn’t just a one-line team. The acquisition of Kyle Turris last season and the development of former first-round pick Kevin Fiala has given the team three lines that can score goals. Nashville has had 14 different players score at least one goal thus far while the Oilers have had just eight different goal scorers.
8. Interestingly enough, as good as Nashville has been, they’ve done virtually all of their damage at even strength. Their power play is operating at a putrid 13.04 percent and they’ve only killed 72.22 percent of their penalties. The Oilers’ power play has been much, much, much better this year than last, so this is something they’ll need to use to their advantage this game.
9. The Oilers recalled Kevin Gravel to replace Matt Benning while he’s on the injured reserve. If Gravel plays well, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Oilers decide to waive Jason Garrison instead when Benning returns. Many have been calling for Ethan Bear to get the call in place of Benning, but I’m fairly certain the plan all along has been for Bear to come up from the AHL once Evan Bouchard returns to London at the end of his nine-game cup of coffee.
10. The Oilers are undefeated in home games this season when they skate out under the Walterdale Bridge. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but if they lose tonight, they need to re-make it and skate out under the Walterdale for all of their home games because it’s clearly good luck.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 10/20/2018 – 9:00 am MT