Thursday, December 17, 2009

Game Preview: Predators Travel to Chilly Edmonton

Shea Weber's Latest Victim (from @NHLPredsInsider)

The Nashville Predators (20-11-3) are making their first swing of the year through Western Canada that begins tonight in a game with the Edmonton Oilers (15-14-4) who will be sporting their throwback jerseys at a sold out Rexall Place.

The Oilers have been playing well lately winning five games in a row on their recent road trip before returning home to lose to the white-hot L.A. Kings 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Edmonton has been led in scoring by Dustin Penner (18 goals, 18 assists) who is finally having the break out season that everyone had been waiting for. Lubomir Visnovsky is the leader from the blue line with 7 goals and 16 assists.

The Preds and the Oilers have met one other time this season when the Preds were blistered 6-1 on October 12 when the Preds were in the midst of their early season slide.

Pekka Rinne (14-6-2, 2.67, .908) will start for the Predators while Jeff Deslauriers ((8-5-2, 2.63, .914) will make his 13th start in a row.

The Oilers are without goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back), Ales Hemsky (shoulder), Mike Comri (Mono) and Fernando Pisani (colitis). The Predators are missing Jordin Tootoo (foot).

Predator's Keys To The Game

Don't Let Up...

The Nashville Predators have a reason to be proud of their turn around from their poor start. After opening the season 2-5-1 they have rebounded to go 18-6-2 in their last 26 games. Their recent success at home needs to carry over to the road where they finish 2009 with six of seven games away from the Sommet Center against quality conference competition.

A look at the standings in the Western Conference reveals that every team is at .500 or better. The 12th place Oilers who are five points out of eight place in the West would be in the thick of a playoff race in the East. The Predators need to keep the petal to the floor and not let up expecting anyone to be an easy mark for the rest of the year.

Again, Beware the Wounded Animal (Team)...

For the third game this week, the Preds are playing a team where the Coach has thrown down the gauntlet demanding improved play. Oilers Coach Pat Quinn blister the team after they gave up the game winner against Los Angeles with five minutes left in the game.

After the five game win streak, Quinn was expecting far better than what they got in the loss to L.A. especially after jumping out to a 2-0 lead. Patrick O'Sullivan appears to have been one of Quinn's targets since he is sporting a healthy -13 plus/minus rating.

Unlike the last two teams to receive a verbal lashing (Columbus and Tampa Bay) the Oilers have actually been playing well so a full 60 minute effort will be required by the Predators.

Improvement Needed on Special Teams...

If anyone were to take a look at the Predators record of 20-11-3 which is eight best in the league, they would expect to see that special teams were leading the charge. The truth of the matter is that the Preds are 27th (16.3%) in the league on the power play and 29th (77.2%) on the penalty kill.

Coach Barry Trotz often talks about the "Hockey Gods" and that you can cheat them only so long before they come back to haunt. The Preds are way over due on feeling the brunt of poor special team numbers so I fear they will have to pay the piper if the situation doesn't improve soon.

Up Next...

The Preds travel south a few kilometers to play Calgary on Saturday night then finish the pre-Christmas schedule in Vancouver on Tuesday.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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