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Bryzgalov to make debut for Oilers vs. Predators

by Mike Battaglino

OILERS (7-16-2) at PREDATORS (13-10-2)


Last 10: Edmonton 4-6-0; Nashville 5-5-0

Season series: This is the first of three games. The Edmonton Oilers won two of three games against the Nashville Predators played in an 18-day span last March.

Big story: Ilya Bryzgalov is scheduled to start his first game in goal for the Oilers since signing with them Nov. 8 and joining the team Nov. 18. Bryzgalov relieved Devan Dubnyk on Tuesday in a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, stopping 12 shots before allowing a goal late in the third period.

"I think [Ilya is] comfortable with his situation here. He knows how the game goes," coach Dallas Eakins told the Oilers website Wednesday. "This isn't a young player coming in that is not quite sure how it works. He's a veteran guy. He understands that whoever's hot and whoever's winning is going to be in the net. And if it's the other guy, then he's good with it.

"All Bryz wants is our team to win. So he'll get his chance to run with it now, and that's what you need in your room. … It should be about the team winning, and that's a real breath of fresh air for us."

Dubnyk made 10 straight starts and was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday.

Team Scope:

Oilers: After winning four times in its first 21 games, Edmonton built a three-game winning streak before the loss to Chicago.

"We didn't deserve a 5-1 loss; I think we played better [than that]," forward Jesse Joensuu said. "I think we have to carry on from those two home games that we played; I think we played the best hockey that we played this season. ... You can't win every game in this League but you have to bounce back and start winning again. We really can't afford losing anymore."

Three times, the Oilers have followed a win with a five-game losing streak.

"The thing you want to try to instill quickly now is, is we've gone through the suffering, we've played some good games, we weren't great last game, it's back to you do everything you can not to lose two in a row," Eakins said. "I like where our guys were at yesterday, today; they seemed to have let it go, where when we were in the depths of a lot of losses, you could feel it when they walked in the room."

Eakins said Bryzgalov has fit in on the team and described him as a friendly soul and intelligent guy.

"There's a couple of things that happened here in practice today, where he made a couple of big point-blank saves and in a cheering way, he's yelling at me, 'There's no cheating in this net! There's no cheating in this crease!" the coach said. "It was a message, but he was saying it in a funny way as well, so it kept it light. With keeping it light, he's still working extremely hard, which is a great mixture."

Center Mark Arcobello and forward Ryan Jones are likely to play after each was a healthy scratch for the past five games. The Oilers recalled defenseman Denis Grebeshkov from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League.

Edmonton plays at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

Predators: Nashville started a span of three games in four days Wednesday with a 4-0 road win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Predators have won five of six to climb three games above .500 for the second time this season.

Beginning with a 7-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 16, the line of Matt Cullen, Craig Smith and Nick Spaling has combined for nine goals and 11 assists.

"Our line goes kind of similar to our team," Cullen told The Tennessean. "We're getting in on the forecheck, and creating turnovers, getting pucks back and making some good things happen.

"[Spaling] is just a really good, honest, hard-working player who can put the puck in the net," Cullen added. "[Smith] and I have played together the majority of the season. We kind of feel like our games complement each other. So it's been good, I'm pretty pleased with the chemistry."

The Predators are 11-1-2 when scoring first, 9-0-1 when leading after the first period.

Goalie Marek Mazanec seems to have taken hold of the No. 1 job and made 19 saves in the shutout Wednesday, his second in his past five starts. Carter Hutton could play this game.

Who's hot: Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has six assists in his past three games. Forward David Perron has six points in his past four games, forwards Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall each have five in his past four. ... The Predators have not allowed a power-play goal in six games (16-for-16). Mazanec has a .955 save percentage in his past five games. Forward Gabriel Bourque has seven points in his past seven games.

Injury report: Oilers forward Nail Yakupov (leg) will play. Defenseman Philip Larsen (back) practiced Tuesday after missing three games. … Predators forwards Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Filip Forsberg (upper body) did not play Wednesday. Goalie Pekka Rinne (hip) is on injured reserve, with an MRI exam moved from this week to Dec. 5 due to scheduling around Thanksgiving, according to The Tennessean.

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