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Preds aim to rebound against Oilers

by Tal Pinchevsky
OILERS (10-8-2) at PREDATORS (10-5-4)

Last 10: Edmonton 4-6-0; Nashville 6-1-3
Season series: This is the second of four meetings between these teams, who last played on Oct. 17 in what would be the Oilers' first regulation victory of the season. That evening, Sergei Kostitsyn opened the scoring for Nashville in the second period before Edmonton came storming back in the third. In the final period, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins earned his first NHL assist on Taylor Hall's tying goal and Ryan Smyth gave the Oilers a lead two minutes later before Ryan Jones sealed a 3-1 victory with an empty-net goal.
Big story: While the Predators have earned at least one point in ten of their last 11 games, the Oilers snapped a four game losing skid with an offensive outburst of epic proportions Saturday night. In a 9-2 thrashing of Chicago, Taylor Hall had his second NHL hat trick and Nugent-Hopkins dished out five assists as four different Oilers collected four or more points in a game for the first time since 1991.
Team Scope:
Oilers: After their historic stomping of Chicago, the Oilers embarked on a four-game road stretch that began Monday night in Dallas. Apparently their remarkable scoring touch didn't make the trip. Against the Stars, Edmonton mustered just 18 shots, including four in the third period, and never found themselves in a game against a determined Stars squad that beat them 4-1.

Nikolai Khabibulin appeared up to the challenge, stopping 31 Dallas shots, but only Nugent-Hopkins was able to get the puck past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. The loss was Edmonton's fifth in their last six games and undid most of the momentum achieved in their early-season six-game win streak.
Predators: After going 4-0-1 in their five previous home games, the Predators played their fourth in a five-game homestand Saturday night against Columbus, a team that hadn't won a road game all season. But despite the favorable matchup, Nashville needed Nick Spaling's third-period goal just to force overtime against the Blue Jackets. In the extra period, James Wisniewski notched his first goal of the season as Columbus improved its road record to 1-7-1.

The loss to Columbus highlighted a troubling trend for the Predators' notoriously stout defense. It marked the fourth time in the young season that the Predators had blown a third-period lead. Each of those games resulted in a loss for Nashville, a team whose strong defense and goaltending had made it a difficult team when playing with a late lead.

"They were checking well, and I give Columbus full credit," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Their record is not an indication of how good a team they are. They are very talented and they've been playing pretty well."

Who's hot: For the Oilers, Nugent-Hopkins remained hot with 11 points in his last 10 games while Jordan Eberle has seven points in his last four games. … Predators captain Shea Weber has six points in his current four-game point streak while his defensive partner Ryan Suter has five points in that span. Martin Erat has also been hot with four goals in his last five games and Mike Fisher has five points in his last three contests.
Injury report: Edmonton's defense is badly depleted, with Ryan Whitney still day-to-day with a knee injury while Cam Barker (ankle), Andy Sutton (groin), and Corey Potter (ankle) are all out.
Stat pack: For the first time in years, the Predators are getting scoring from a variety of sources. At the moment, they have four players – David Legwand, Craig Smith, Weber, and Suter – who are on pace for 60 points this season. The Predators haven't had a 60-point scorer since J-P Dumont had 65 points in the 2008-09 season. The last time Nashville had multiple players with 60-plus points was 2007-08, when Dumont and Jason Arnott both collected 72 points.
Puck drop: Nugent-Hopkins' effort against Chicago on Saturday was impressive in all areas. Not only did he become the first 18-year-old in NHL history to collect five assists in a game, but he also boasted a 78-percent success rate in the faceoff circle, winning seven out of nine draws. He now leads all rookies with 20 points, five more than the Predators' Smith, who is second among rookies in points but first in power-play points and points on the road.
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