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Predators start crucial road trip against Oilers

by Adam Kimelman
PREDATORS (32-23-8) at OILERS (20-35-8)


Last 10 --
Nashville 4-5-1; Edmonton 4-6-0

Season series -- This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season. The teams split their two prior games. On Jan. 23, Cody Franson scored the deciding goal in the shootout to give the Predators a 3-2 win in Edmonton. On Feb. 7, Devan Dubnyk turned aside all 37 shots and Andrew Cogliano and Jordan Eberle each had a goal and an assist to give the Oilers a 4-0 victory in Nashville.

Big story -- With just two wins in their last seven games, the Predators need wins in a hurry if they want to climb back into the Western Conference playoff chase. They entered the week 10th, but just two points behind fifth-place Los Angeles.

Team Scope:

Predators --
Nashville starts what could be a season-defining trip Tuesday, a four-game journey that starts in Edmonton and continues through Calgary, Vancouver and San Jose, and could determine if the team is destined for the Stanley Cup Playoffs or an early start to its summer.

Scrapping its way to a 3-2 home victory against the red-hot Blue Jackets on Sunday, and ending a four-game losing streak in the process, was a nice going-away party.

"It was just desperation," forward Jerred Smithson told the Tennessean. "You're just fighting for points. We had some good chances there in the first two periods and didn't capitalize and found a way to get it done in the third."

Oilers -- Gilbert Brule's goal Sunday against the Bruins gave him goals in three straight games. However, those games have come about seven weeks apart. Sunday's game was Brule's first since Jan. 6 due to injuries.

In his first game, he centered the Oilers' fourth line and played 12 shifts totaling 11:11 of ice time.

"Felt great," Brule told the Edmonton Journal. "First game in two months, you should have some energy."

Who's hot --
Predators captain Shea Weber might be getting hot at the right time. He had a goal and an assist Sunday against the Blue Jackets, his first multi-point game since Jan. 6. … Oilers forward Ales Hemsky has 5 goals and 4 assists in his last seven games.

Injury report -- Predators forward Marcel Goc is out for the season with an upper-body injury, and forward Steve Sullivan is out with a lower-body injury. … Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney is out for the season with an ankle injury, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is out indefinitely with an eye injury. Defenseman Theo Peckham is questionable after taking a hard hit Sunday against Boston.

Stat pack -- The Predators' 17 road wins are tied for fourth-most in the Western Conference, but they've struggled away from Bridgestone Arena recently, winning just once in their last six road games.

Puck drop --
Blake Geoffrion, the first Nashville native to play for the Predators, was pretty excited to skate out for warmups for his first home game, Sunday against the Blue Jackets. The players even allowed him to lead them onto the ice before the home crowd.

However, when Geoffrion got halfway around the ice, he looked back and noticed he was the only player on the ice. Consider the rookie punk'd.

"I knew it was coming, but it's something you got to do," Geoffrion told the Tenneesean of the prank. "Kind of embarrassing, but that's OK."

Geoffrion played 8:44 on a line with Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo.

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