The Oilers have a one-game pit stop in Edmonton before they fly east for games in Montreal, Ottawa, and Washington before the All-Star break. Consecutive victories over Calgary and Vancouver have given the Oilers a much needed boost and they will get another with Zack Hyman returning to the lineup tonight.
And they will need it against a good Predators team.
The Preds are seventh in goals/against per game allowing only 2.70. Juuse Saros has been excellent in goal and while the Predators don’t have a superstar forward, they have a balanced attack led by a resurgent Matt Duchene.
Nashville plays a very physical game as they lead the NHL in hits and are fifth in hits/game. Rookie Tanner Jeannot leads them with 141 hits, and he has 13 goals and 26 points. Luke Kunin and Matt Borowiecki are over 100 as well and Yakov Trenin has 95. Edmonton doesn’t play a physical style. Their top three players in hits are Darnell Nurse (101), Zack Kassian (82) and Warren Foegele (54).
In their first meeting this season, the Oilers matched the Predators’ physicality as the hits were 33-29 in favour of Nashville, but Edmonton skated away with a 5-2 win. Jesse Puljujarvi had four hits that game, used his big frame very effectively, and he chipped in with a goal as well. Edmonton will need a similar performance from the big Finn tonight.
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The Predators don’t generate a lot of shots, but they’ve been very good at finishing their chances. They are 24th in the NHL in shots/game at 29.2, but they have the seventh best team shooting percentage at 10.65. The Oilers are tied for 11th in shots/game at 33.2, and 18th in SH% at 9.74.
The Predators rank higher in SH%, than they do in Sv%, which illustrates how good (or lucky) they’ve been burying their chances. Edmonton has to limit the high-danger chances against. One of Edmonton’s consistent weaknesses this season has been their ability to give up a great scoring chance. They likely can’t afford to do it tonight against the Preds.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Yamamoto
Foegele  – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
Hyman – Mcleod – Kassian
Shore – Ryan – Sceviour
Nurse – Bouchard
Keith – Ceci
Lagesson – Russell
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Koskinen
Zach Hyman returns to the lineup and will skate with Mcleod and Kassian. I see this as foreshadowing of what will happen when the Oilers officially sign Evander Kane. Kane will skate with McDavid and RNH will be the third line centre with Hyman and Kassian. It will be interesting to see what the line combinations they try in the coming months. A source told me the Oilers have already ordered jersey #91 for Kane. While nothing is official yet, it seems a Kane signing is very likely.

Predators…

Forsberg – Granlund – Duchene
Cousins – Johansen– Kunin
Trenin – Sissons – Jeannot
Smith – McCarron – Tomasino
Josi – Benning
Ekholm – Carrier
Borowiecki – Tennyson
Saros
Saros will start for the 37th time in 45 games for the Predators. John Hynes isn’t afraid to use his starter. Saros has been excellent so far this season with a record of 23-11-2, a .926Sv% and 2.37 GAA.
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In 25 of his 36 starts he’s allowed two goals or fewer. He has two shutouts, five games allowing one goal and 18 games he allowed two. He is 2-7-1 when he allows three+ goals.
Edmonton desperately needs to score first. They’ve trailed 1-0 in 10 consecutive games and 25 of the previous 29. Their last three victories have come when they trailed 2-0, but that seems unlikely against the stingy Saros.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers lose 3-2 in a shootout. Saros makes 38 saves.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers tie franchise record and allow the first goal for the 11th straight game.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Matt Benning scores his first goal of the season for Nashville.

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