Bring on the Oilers (aka Connor McWho?)
The Nashville Predators (19-7-4, 42 pts) head into Edmonton to play the Oilers (13-16-2, 28 pts) tonight at Rogers Place on the back half of a back-to-back with Western Canadian foes. The Preds are 4-0-1 in December and have secured at least one point in 24 of their 30 games this season including 16 of their last 20. They are 4-2-2 against the Pacific Division this season and have not lost to Edmonton in the last 9 contests.
Despite this history and the Oilers hovering near the bottom of the league standings, they have some of the biggest scoring threats in the league. In addition to the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the Most Valuable Player to his team and the league respectively, Connor McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy last season as the leading scorer in the league during the regular season, putting up 30 goals and 70 assists during the regular season and an additional 5 goals and 4 assists during they Stanley Cup Playoffs. McDavid leads the Oilers this season with 39 points (12 goals and 27 assists). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic are all tied for second in team scoring with 22 points each, so the Oilers are loaded with offensive talent. The Predators have an advantage in scoring with 102 goals for (34 goals per game – GPG) on the season to Edmonton’s 93 goals (3.0 GPG).
It is on the defensive end where the Oilers are having difficulties. Their already thin blue line talent pool is missing two of their most talented defensemen in Andrej Sekera and Adam Larsson. Adam Larsson had 19 points last season and was a +21 and Andrej Sekera was a +14 with 35 points last year. Their lone remaining defensive stud from last year, Oscar Klefbom, has had a mediocre year, at best, with 8 total points and a -14. This is where the Predators should have the decided advantage as they have only given up 85 goals (2.8 GPG) to the Oilers’ 101 (3.25 GPG).
Perhaps the greatest the Predators have is between the pipes. The Oilers’ starting goalie, Cam Talbot, is on Injured Reserve with an upper-body injury, which makes Laurent Brossoit their projected starter. Brossoit is 3-6-0 on the season with a .891 SV% and 3.15 GAA. He has given up 13 goals on 142 shots in his last 5 starts. The Preds are projected to start Juuse Saros in net tonight. Saros is 2-3-1 on the year with a .890 SV% and 3.42 GAA. While these numbers are worse than Brossoit’s, his last 3 starts have been impressive. Saros has posted a 933 SV% and 2.67 GAA over that span and has seen much more playing time with trips to Milwaukee to get some additional work when the schedule allows. If the defense plays in front of Juuse the way that have been over the last few games, he should be able to weather any storms the Oilers can manage.
Projected Lineup (based on last night’s success)
Nick Bonino – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala – Kyle Turris – Craig Smith
Filip Forsberg – Calle Jarnkrok – Pontus Aberg
Scott Hartnell – Colton Sissons – Austin Watson
Roman Josi – Mattias Ekholm
Alexei Emelin – P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin – Yannick Weber
Predators win 5-2