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Predators continue Canadian trip against Oilers

by Brian Hunter
PREDATORS (27-16-3) at OILERS (16-23-5)

Last 10: Nashville 5-5-0; Edmonton 1-8-1

Season series:
Third of four meetings this season, with each team already having won on its opponent's home ice. Tough guy Zack Stortini turned goal scorer with a pair of tallies in a 6-1 Edmonton win on Oct. 12. Patric Hornqvist returned the favor on Dec. 17 with a pair of goals in a 6-3 Nashville victory.

Big story:
With just one win in their last 12 games, the Oilers are in danger of falling into the NHL basement -- they're already last in the Western Conference and now the Hurricanes have closed to within four points of them in the overall standings.

In the four days since a 4-2 home loss to the Blue Jackets, another team that had been struggling, the Oilers conducted a mini-camp of sorts Friday and Saturday. They took Sunday off before returning to the ice for a regular practice on Monday.

"They worked hard," coach Pat Quinn said. "I haven't had much to gripe about in that area because they do practice and they're trying hard to make themselves better. Hopefully we can take that into the game."

"Four days isn't going to make a major difference I don't think, because we have some room to go as far as becoming a team. But maybe we've made some steps that way. We hopefully can sustain our game for a longer period of time than we have in many of them."

Team Scope:

Special teams and a strong goaltending effort from Dan Ellis spelled a 3-2 victory for Nashville as it started a three-game road trip through Western Canada in Vancouver on Monday. Shea Weber scored the go-ahead, power-play goal with 4:03 left for the Predators. Ryan Jones also tallied with the man advantage and Joel Ward had a shorthanded goal in his return after missing the last two games with a wrist injury. Ellis finished with 30 saves.

"We played a lot better tonight that we had in the last couple of games," Preds defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. "We had a better mental approach."

Since winning five straight road games to begin the month of December, the only time Edmonton has emerged victorious since was a 3-1 triumph over Toronto on Dec. 30. The Oilers are 0-3-1 since, part of what led to their two-day mini-camp.

"We had a few meetings during that mini-camp, we watched a lot of videos, and the coaches want us to be on the same page," defenseman Denis Grebeshkov said. "That was the point of that mini-camp. So I guess we learned a lot during those two or three days and all we have to do is show that during the game."

Who's hot:
Steve Sullivan has a goal and five assists during a five-game points streak and has taken the Predators' scoring lead with 30 points. Weber has two goals and seven assists in his last seven games. Ellis has allowed two goals or less and made at least 30 saves in each of his last three starts.

Sam Gagner has a goal and three assists during a four-game points streak for the Oilers. Grebeshkov has a goal and two assists in his last two games.

Injury report:
Nashville captain Jason Arnott missed a second straight game Monday with an upper-body injury. Forwards Jordin Tootoo (broken foot) and Jerred Smithson (broken hand) are on injured reserve.

Edmonton has goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back), defenseman Taylor Chorney (ankle) and forwards Marc Pouliot (sports hernia), Mike Comrie (mononucleosis) and Ales Hemsky (shoulder) on injured reserve, but defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky plans to return from a sprained ankle to play Tuesday.

"I'm ready to go," Visnovsky said Monday. "The coach gave me the chance -- I'm ready to play."

Stat pack:
The Predators have identical .938 winning percentages when leading after one and two periods, respectively. … Dustin Penner leads the Oilers in goals (20), assists (20), points (40), plus-minus (plus-9), power-play goals (5) and shots (130).

Puck drop:
Nashville actually has a slightly better points percentage on the road (13-7-2) than at home (14-9-1) and proved last month it won't be intimidated by a trip to Rexall Place.

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