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Preds return home to host Oilers

by Eric Goodman
OILERS (28-36-8) at PREDATORS (42-22-8)


Last 10: Edmonton 3-5-2; Nashville 6-3-1.

Season Series: This is the fourth and final game between these clubs. Edmonton holds the 2-1-0 advantage this season and has won three of the last five meetings at Bridgestone Arena.

Big Story: The Preds have eight points separating them and the Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues, but if Nashville can close out the season on a hot streak then it's possible to capture the first division crown in franchise history, along with the Presidents' Trophy as the team with the most points in the NHL. However, with just 10 games left on the Predators' schedule, the more realistic goal is to maintain fourth place in the Western Conference and open the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs at home.

Team Scope:

Oilers: Edmonton has been mired towards the bottom of the Western Conference standings for most of the season, but it still shows a lot of promise for the future. Rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (45 points) has a shot at catching fellow rookies Gabriel Landeskog (47) and Adam Henrique (46) for the League lead in rookie points this season, which would also make him a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.

Tuesday's game agsinst Nashville will see the Oilers attempting to gain redemption for blowing a 2-0 third-period lead in their last game against the Phoenix Coyotes Sunday and eventually losing 3-2 in the shootout. The Coyotes' Raffi Torres tied the game on an odd-man rush with just over two minutes left in regulation. Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky both tallied in the second period to stake the Oilers to the two-goal lead.

"It's very frustrating," Eberle told after the game. "It seems to be the story of our season. A couple of mistakes and it costs us the game."

Predators: Nashville looks for its third straight win at home as it hosts an Oilers team that really has nothing to lose. While the Central Division title is not quite out of reach, head coach Barry Trotz and company will do their best to fend off the cluster of Western Conference clubs aiming for fourth place.

The Preds will seek to duplicate last game's effort in which they reeled off three unanswered third-period goals to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 on the road this past Sunday. Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher both tallied their 23rd goals of the season in the third to remain tied for the team lead in that category.

"It was a big, big two points for us," Hornqvist said after the game. "We had to climb in the standings and try to catch Detroit and St. Louis. You never know what can happen, and we want to win every game."

Who's Hot: Fisher is in the midst of a four-game point streak for Nashville with 3 goals and 1 assist over that span. ... Edmonton's Eberle is riding a three-game point streak and has totaled 2 goals and 5 assists over his last five games played.

Injury Report: Nashville defenseman Roman Josi (upper body) and forward Paul Gaustad (upper body) were both out of the lineup Saturday and their status for Tuesday has not yet been determined. ... Oilers winger Ben Eager remains listed as day-to-day with back issues.

Stat Pack: Trotz needs just three more wins to make it 500 total NHL victories. The veteran bench boss has been the Predators' head coach for their entire 13-season existence in the League.

Puck Drop: Although the Predators haven't receieved an outpouring of accolades when compared to other top teams in the NHL, they are at least getting compliments from those that matter most: their opponents.

"They're a team that's built for the playoffs," said Ducks' forward Bobby Ryan of the Predators' play this season. "They play a full 60 minutes, they've got a great back end, and they've got three lines that can hurt you."

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