In those days, a defenseman will betray his partner with a bad pinch, a mentor will betray his rookie wingers with a lazy backcheck, and those rookies will refuse to listen to their coaches causing them to be fired. Many fans will give up on you, even hate you, because of this interminable losing, but those that endure to the end will be handsomely rewarded.
Edmonton Oilers (10-8-2)
Bridgestone Arena, 6:00 p.m. MST
Television: Sportsnet West
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report:
As usual, in my prediction for the Predators this year, I looked at their roster, decided on what kind of goal differential I thought was reasonable and then added twenty. The Predators constantly defy my expectations, winning many more games than I think they'll be able to pretty well every season. In the past, they've been able to do it with goaltending, and that has been good once again. But this year, the team's offense has been surprisingly good too. Despite a modest lineup, the Predators are in the top half of the league in goals per game (13th with 2.79), with most of their damage coming at even strength. The Predators don't have any one individual doing the damage (Patric Hornqvist leads the team in even strength scoring with ten points, good for 56th in the league), but with nine players in the top 185 even strength scorers, they've been able to beat teams with their depth. Given that four of the Oilers' defenders have played less than 120 career games, I expect that the Predators will find a way to take advantage.
Edmonton Oilers (10-8-2):
Hall - Gagner - Hemsky
Smyth - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Lander - Horcoff - Jones
Hordichuk - Belanger - Petrell
Smid - Gilbert
Peckham - Petry
Plante - Teubert
Nashville Predators (10-5-4):
Wilson - Legwand - Hornqvist
Erat - Fisher - Kostitsyn
Halischuk - Smith - Tootoo
Geoffrion - Smithson - Spaling
Suter - Weber
Bouillon - Klein
Blum - Hillen
By the Numbers:
- The Edmonton Oilers play in the worst division in the Western Conference. The division has a Clear Victory winning percentage of just .393 against teams from other divisions. The Nashville Predators, on the other hand, play in the best division in the Western Conference. That division has a Clear Victory winning percentage of .595 against teams from other divisions. The Central division also has four of the five best Clear Victory records in the Conference.
- Tonight's game features the two leading rookie scorers in the NHL in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Craig Smith. Nugent-Hopkins was the first overall pick this year out of the WHL and leads the league with 20 points. Smith, who has 15 points, passed through the draft twice before finally being selected in the fourth round of the 2009 entry draft after an excellent season in the USHL. Smith went on to have two very good seasons at the University of Wisconsin - he had one of the best NHL equivalencies among forwards drafted in 2009 last season - before jumping straight from college to the NHL.
- We all knew that the Oilers' goaltending wasn't going to be amazing forever but the difference in the last few games has been enormous. In the first fourteen games of the season, Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk combined to make 385 saves on 405 shots for a save percentage of .951. In the last six games, those two have allowed more goals than they did in the previous fourteen, making just 154 saves on 178 shots for a save percentage of .865.
- I mentioned yesterday that Darcy Hordichuk's lack of ice time led to some funky numbers, and mentioned his team-leading Corsi rate of +14.8 per sixty minutes of five-on-five ice time as an example. It's somewhat amusing, then, that after last night's game Hordichuk has dropped all the way to dead last with a rate of -31.25.
- The Predators currently have six different regulars with at least 0.7 points per game (David Legwand, Martin Erat, Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, Shea Weber, and Sergei Kostitsyn). If they end the year with that many, it would represent a huge change from recent seasons: in each of the last two seasons, they've had just one (Martin Erat last season and Jason Arnott in 2009-10).