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Surging Predators visit struggling Oilers

by Deborah Francisco

PREDATORS (26-15-6) AT OILERS (14-25-7)

TV -- FS-Tennessee (HD), SNET-West (HD)

Last 10 -- Nashville 8-2-0; Edmonton 2-8-0

Season series -- This is the first meeting of four between the two Western Conference clubs. Nashville won three of the four games last season, including both visits to Rexall Place.

Big story -- The slumping Oilers will have a tough time snapping a four-game losing skid when they take on the streaking Predators, who have won nine of their last 11 games as they begin a tough three-in-four stretch through Western Canada before the All-Star break.

Team Scope:

Predators -- The Predators are playing a solid game from front to back, starting with the spectacular work of Finnish netminder Pekka Rinne in the crease. Rinne boasts the second-best save percent in the league at .930 and is 8-1-0 in his last nine starts. He played a big part in the Predators' 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, stopping 32 shots and losing his shutout bid with less than four minutes left.

"Obviously, every time you get scored on, I'm not happy," Rinne told the Tennessean. "But it's a big win for us and that is the main thing. ... We've been playing pretty well as of late and we've been building a lot of confidence. Personally, I feel good, and the guys are playing well in front of me."

Oilers -- Things have not gone Edmonton's way in recent games. The Oilers are 2-11-2 in their last 15 and have scored more than two goals just once in their last eight. Edmonton last won a game on Jan. 13, a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Things are not going to get any easier for the Oilers in the coming week either as they will visit two hot Western Conference foes in the Phoenix Coyotes and the Dallas Stars before the All-Star break.

"I would like to be more competitive in the standings," coach Tom Renney said. "But we're not as concerned with that as we are with continuing to build. ... We obviously want to continue to work on our game and what we want to be as quickly as possible."

Injury report -- Predators forward Marek Svatos missed the last game with a lower-body injury, Steve Sullivan (lower-body) is on IR, Francis Bouillon (upper-body) is day-to-day. … Edmonton forwardAles Hemsky (concussion) is out indefinitely, as are forwardGilbert Brule and defensemanRyan Whitney with ankle injuries.Jordan Eberle (ankle) andJim Vandermeer (ankle) are day-to-day.

Who's hot  -- Nashville defenseman Cody Franson notched two points in his last contest and three points in as many games. … Ryan Jones boasts 15 points on the season including a goal in his last contest and two points in his last four games.

Stat pack -- The Predators have outscored opponents 42-21 in their last 11 games, including 36-17 at even strength. They have allowed two goals or fewer in nine of their last 11.

Puck drop -- With a rare Saturday off, the Oilers still drew more than 12,000 fans to Rexall Place for their annual skills competition. Team White beat Team Orange 22-21, with the proceeds going to charity.

"We always have a lot of fun at the Skills Competition, and most importantly we try to make it fun for the fans," Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff told the team's website. Defenseman Kurtis Foster -- winner of the hardest shot competition at 103.4 mph, agreed. "It's awesome to see all the people who came out today, especially all the kids," he said. "We thank them for being here."

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