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Predators continue playoff push against Oilers

by Tal Pinchevsky
OILERS (23-39-10) at PREDATORS (38-25-10)


Last 10 --
Edmonton 3-5-2; Nashville 6-2-2

Season series -- This is the fourth and final meeting this season between these teams. They each have a shootout win, while the Oilers topped the Predators 4-0 in their last visit to the Music City on Feb. 7.

Big story --
While Nashville remains in the thick of the contentious Western Conference playoff race, Edmonton has been playing the role of spoiler for some time now. With six consecutive losses, it's a role the Oilers appear to have struggled with lately.

Team Scope:

Oilers --
While the young and rebuilding Oilers have been out of the playoff picture for some time, the crushing blow to their season may have come on March 3, when star rookie Taylor Hall went down for the remainder of the season with a high ankle sprain incurred during his first NHL fight. At the time, the No. 1 pick in last June's Entry Draft was leading Edmonton with 22 goals and ranked third among rookies in goals and points.

The Oilers have gone 1-4-2 since Hall went down and their situation worsened with the recent loss of Sam Gagner for the remainder of the season. In their last game on Saturday, the Oilers hosted the Colorado Avalanche, who they had throttled 5-1 just two weeks earlier. Against the Avs, Kurtis Foster tied the game with just 3:50 remaining in regulation, but the Oilers couldn't solve goaltender Brian Elliott in the shootout, falling 3-2.

Predators --
With 86 points, the Predators have kept pace with a group of six Western-Conference teams separated by a single win. With three straight wins over teams currently occupying playoff spots, the Predators have done their part. But it hasn't been easy, as two of those three wins required overtime.

Perhaps most surprising with this veteran-heavy squad has been how rookies have led this recent win streak. After rookie defenseman Jonathon Blum scored the game-winner in a 3-1 win in Detroit on Saturday, fellow rookie Blake Geoffrion led the charge in a 4-3 Sunday OT win over Buffalo. Playing in just his 11th game, Geoffrion registered his first career hat trick before Martin Erat scored the winner 27 seconds into the extra frame.

"It's a great comeback," Erat said. "It's a great feeling. But the game is over and we have to focus on the next one."

Who's hot -- For the Oilers, Linus Omark has points in consecutive games while Ryan Jones has 2 goals in his last four games. … Geoffrion has 4 goals in his last two games while Erat has 11 points in his last nine games. Ryan Suter, Sergei Kostitsyn, and David Legwand all have 4 points in their respective three-game points streaks.

Injury report --
In addition to Hall and Gagner, Edmonton also has Ryan Whitney (ankle) and Taylor Chorney (knee) on IR. Ales Hemsky is also out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury while Shawn Horcoff (ankle), Jean-Francois Jacques (foot), and Gilbert Brule (concussion) are out for this game. … For Nashville, Matthew Lombardi (concussion), Cal O'Reilly (broken fibula), Francis Bouillon (concussion), Marcel Goc (shoulder), and Steve Sullivan (groin) are all on IR.

Stat pack -- With 16 goals this season, Nashville captain Shea Weber is assured at least 15 goals in each of his last three seasons. The only other defenseman who can make that claim is Dustin Byfuglien, who played primarily at forward for the Blackhawks last season. Mike Green has scored at least 18 goals in the previous three seasons, but with 8 goals this season and injury problems, he is unlikely to repeat that feat in the 2010-11 campaign.

Puck drop --
How much has Edmonton struggled lately with injuries? Its top three scorers -- Hemsky, Gagner, and Hall -- are all done for the rest of the season.

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