Leon Draisaitl was drafted third overall by the Edmonton Oilers on June 27th, 2014. He made his NHL debut a year later, but since he was drafted the Nashville Predators have absolutely dominated the Edmonton Oilers.
Nashville is 14-1 against the Oilers since October 29th, 2014. Pekka Rinne has won 12 consecutive starts. Juuse Saros is 2-1 against the Oilers, but both his wins were shutouts. Regardless of who started in goal recently for the Predators, they have dominated the Oilers, and Edmonton needs to reverse that trend tonight.
Their only victory over the Preds in the last 15 games was on Draisaitl’s 23rd birthday last season. Edmonton won 5-3 in Nashville on October 27th, 2018 and Draisaitl scored twice.
So maybe “birthday power” is the only thing that can help the Oilers. No Oilers player was born on January 14th, but a young lad by the name of Connor McDavid did turn 23 yesterday. McDavid has only played one game on his actual birthday. He picked up two assists on his 21st birthday in Vegas two years ago when the Oilers won 3-2 in overtime.
McDavid is a unique case, so maybe his Bday power extends an extra day (at this point the Oilers need any extra boost they can get when playing the Predators). Twice he has played the day after his birthday, January 14th, and the Oilers won both of those games. They defeated Calgary 2-1 in 2017 and walloped Buffalo 7-2 last year.
It likely will take more than McDavid’s birthday power to give the Oilers a victory over the Predators, but I asked the captain what has made the Predators such a tough opponent.
“They’ve been a good team. They have solid goaltending. Their D is good, they are active in the play and chip in offensively and their forward group is solid top to bottom. We have to play a simple game at home like we have on the road. We have to be better at home,” said McDavid.
Head coach Dave Tippett hasn’t been here for the Nashville domination, but regardless of who the opponent is, Tippett was clear in what the team needs to do to give themselves a chance to win.
“We are looking to play a real strong checking game tonight,” said Tippett. “We had a good conversation about how our team needs to play better. There are some areas of our game we have to improve.
“We want to play a better checking game. The Montreal game we were loose. The Calgary game I thought we could have checked a lot better than we did. We have to play a strong, checking game tonight. That is our mindset. We have talked about this. The stretch drive and the second half of the season, the games are going to be tight and every play that happens in a game counts. You better be willing to check. You better be willing to play a real good, strong two-way game. That is the balance we are looking for,” continued Tippett.
Archibald will fill in for the suspended Zack Kassian. He has played with McDavid a few games before so it is a natural fit. The Predators don’t have one line you can focus on. All four lines contribute, so the Oilers top two lines will have to focus as much on strong defensive plays as they do on creating offence.
The Preds are very good at 5×5, outscoring their opposition 107-84. Their weakness is on special teams. Their PK has allowed the second-most PP goals, 36, while their powerplay has 26 goals compared to the Oilers 41.
Jujhar Khaira sits out again and Patrick Russell will play his first game since December 27th. He will likely pair up with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the second PK unit. Often Tippett likes to put McDavid’s line on right after a penalty, and with Archibald being a PK guy, we might see Leon Draisaitl get a shift with #97 then or possibly Joakim Nygard or Sam Gagner.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton wins consecutive home games for the first time since victories over New Jersey and Colorado on November 8th and 14th. Oilers skate away with a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite it being -35 fans still drink more beer than tea or coffee at the game.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Patrick Russell scores his first NHL goal in his 37th NHL game and 10 days after he turned 27, for another birthday connection.
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