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Photo Credit: © Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

GDB Game Notes: Nashville Predators @ Edmonton Oilers

After a disappointing two-game swing through Arizona and San Jose, the Oilers will return home on Saturday night to host the Nashville Predators.

1. After an impressive showing in which they picked up five of a possible six points in a three-game swing against Calgary, St. Louis, and Calgary again, the Oilers seemed to have an emotional letdown after travelling to the desert. In Arizona, they came out flat in the first period, then, at home against San Jose, they had a quick start, but failed to keep their foot on the gas for the final 40 minutes. The team will need to find their energy again against Nashville and Chicago, two teams who won’t go away in the wild-card race.

2. This evening’s game (which will be played at 5:00 pm local time) will be the second of three meetings between the Oilers and Predators this season. Nashville came to down in mid-January after the Oilers lost an emotional game on the road to Calgary. The Oilers beat the Preds in a huge rebound victory and then hammered Arizona a few nights later before heading into the break. Hopefully, this game against Nashville works out the same way it did last time.

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3. Dave Tippett clearly wasn’t happy with the team’s effort over the last couple of games…

Hopefully, this gives them a kick.

4. The Preds have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season. After adding Matt Duchene in the off-season Nashville was expected to contend for a Stanley Cup, but they’re currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in with the trade deadline quickly approaching.

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5. The team is 7-5-0 since firing head coach Peter Laviolette and replacing him with John Hynes, who got fired from his gig as the head coach of the New Jersey Devils a few weeks prior. Swapping out Laviolette for Hynes hasn’t fixed Nashville’s biggest issue, which has been poor goaltending. The usually-solid duo of Pekka Rinne and Jusse Saros has been terrible this year, posting a combined .893 save percentage.

6. Obviously, you don’t like to simply blame goaltending for a team’s struggles, but it’s difficult to pinpoint anything else glaringly wrong with Nashville this year. Their underlying numbers are good, they don’t give up many high-quality chances against, and they’re above-average offensively. One place they’re really struggling with is on the penalty kill. Nashville has a 74.85 penalty kill percentage, which ranks fifth-worst in the league.

7. Is that a goaltending thing? Or a team thing? Regardless, it bodes well for the Oilers, who own the league’s most effective power play at 28.75 percent. That said, while Edmonton does still have the top power-play in the league, it’s been a cause of concern the past couple of games as they haven’t converted on their last six opportunities. I’ve heard talk that Oscar Klefbom isn’t cutting it on the power-play and that either Darnell Nurse or Ethan Bear should get a shot on the top unit. The power-play hasn’t been good the past couple of games, but this is still the top power-play in the league for a reason. I wouldn’t say it’s time to hit the panic button just yet.

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8. Tyler Benson finally made his NHL debut last night, splitting time with Gaetan Haas and Alex Chiasson on the fourth line and alongside Connor McDavid. Interestingly enough, Benson was much more effective with the fourth-line guys, as he and McDavid didn’t muster a single shot attempt during their time on ice together. Over 2:40 of play at even strength, those two managed to get outshot nine to zero. Playing a rookie alongside McDavid is a difficult task because he attracts the other team’s top defenders.

9. Courtesy of Gregor here is the Oilers scoring last year compared to this season, though 54 games, as well as the Predators’ scoring.

TEAM TOP-5 FORWARDS REST OF FORWARDS DEFENCE
2018/19 103-133-236                                                  31-52-83 20-71-91
EDMONTON 106-152-258 47-56-103 18-81-99
NASHVILLE 70-67-137 68-109-177 33-102-135

10. Gregor added that the Predators don’t have any elite scoring forwards this year. D-man Roman Josi leads their team with 38 points and Matt Duchene’s 35 points is tops among forwards, but the Predators have scoring throughout their lineup. They are 9thin the NHL in scoring averaging 3.25 goals/game, but they have struggled mightily defensively, which is odd for a Predators team. They are 24th in GA/game at 3.23. Pekka Rinne has a .898Sv% in 31 starts and Juuse Saros has a .901Sv% in 22 starts.

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