NASHVILLE, TN - As is customary on the second half of back-to-back games, the Oilers took part in team meetings this morning along with an optional skate for a small handful of players.
News from this morning had Chris VandeVelde being sent back to Oklahoma City which leaves the team with only three healthy natural centremen. Also, Ales Hemsky was questionable heading into the morning skate after blocking a shot from Jakub Kindl off the site of his foot last night.
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger addressed the centre situation as well as Hemsky with the media this morning.
"We've got Ales Hemsky out of the lineup tonight so we will be working with the 12 forwards that are still here," said Krueger. "Expecting Shawn Horcoff back soon but not today."
The head coach also added that in addition to the deletion from the lineup of Hemsky and VandeVelde coupled with the insertion of Lennart Petrell and Ben Eager, Corey Potter comes out with Theo Peckham drawing back in.
Devan Dubnyk is also starting in goal while Ryan Smyth will play centre.
"Yes, definitely," Kreuger remarked. "Ryan Smyth will be playing at centre. We just made the decision on Hemsky now so we'll have a coaches meeting to finalize the lineup. I can't tell you which combinations will be going until the warm-up tonight."
Among the options that Krueger has, includes a reinsertion of rookie Nail Yakupov into the team's top six.
"There's a lot of different ways to look at that. Nashville is very consistent in the way they play through their lineup. The battle levels coming at us and the kind of game that we're looking at today is a game of high compete and a necessity to really be a solid defensive team to match the defensive structure of Nashville."
Tonight is the Oilers' seventh game on this mammoth nine-game road trip. The team has gone 0-3-1 in its last four games. Coach Krueger addressed the challenge of keeping everyone's energy high.
"It's about what you don't do as much as what you do do," he said. "Very few players on the ice today, unless you had really low minutes or there was the potential of not playing. We're staying away from the ice, we're staying away from practice. We're trying to be careful how much information we bring in to them, breaking them up into smaller groups for meetings today and going over the odd detail."
The Oilers' bench boss said that he even broke up the team meetings to ensure that the players were able to pinpoint what they needed to work on for the game tonight.
"We would have had a much longer video session today if it was a day off but it isn't and we need to get ready for the game and keep them mentally fresh by giving them some optimism, some things they can grab onto. It's a fine balance that we all have this year in the National Hockey League."
Krueger added that he is expecting to see a team tonight that responds to how they played in Detroit.
"We're expecting a response from the disappointing middle period in Detroit. We're expecting a very gritty game today."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (8-10-5) at PREDATORS (9-9-5)
TV: SNET-West, FS-Tennessee
Last 10: Edmonton 3-5-2; Nashville 3-6-1
Season series: First of three meetings, all of which will take place this month. Edmonton took three of four last season, including both games played in Nashville. Ales Hemsky led all scorers with four goals for the Oilers, while teammate Jordan Eberle had three.
Big story: Each team is attempting to snap a losing streak and climb a little closer to the top eight in the Western Conference. The Oilers have dropped four in a row, while the Predators have lost three straight.
Oilers: An arduous nine-game road trip for Edmonton still has three stops remaining, and after a 1-0-1 start the young Oilers have hit the skids. They got a solid effort Thursday night from goalie Devan Dubnyk, who turned aside 25 of 27 shots in Detroit, but his teammates were blanked by Jimmy Howard in what ended up a 3-0 loss.
"We would have liked to have seen maybe a power play or two in the game but when you look at the whole picture here, there's no excuses for this one," coach Ralph Krueger said. "We cannot stop playing for 10 minutes against the Detroit Red Wings and expect to get points and that's what happened here."
Predators: On Feb. 25, defenseman Roman Josi erupted for a two-goal, four-point night and Nashville scored five times in an overtime victory over Dallas. That's the Predators' only win in their past six games, and in the five losses they've scored a total of three goals. Compounding the lack of scoring, goalie Pekka Rinne has been pulled in two of his past three shots. He yielded five goals on just 13 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Kings on Monday.
"This kind of game should have made it easier for me, but I didn't respond," Rinne said. "I just have to make sure I'm doing my job. Out of the last three games, I've been pulled twice, so I'm not doing my job and just I have to focus on that. I can't focus on how many goals we're scoring. I have to be able to help this team."
Who's hot: Dubnyk is 1-3-1 on the Oilers' road trip, but he's kept them in games with a .908 save percentage over that span. … Gabriel Bourque has the lone Predators goal in each of the past two games.