EDMONTON, AB - Already having played Nashville twice this season - losing both games by a combined score of 6-1 - the Oilers don't have to look far for an updated scouting report on the Predators.
Forward Pontus Aberg, acquired from Nashville on Feb. 25, has spent the entirety of his National Hockey League career in Smashville and knows the club has few deficiencies.
"They're a good team, especially from the back end," Aberg, who registered his first point as an Oiler on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks, said.
The forward provided a brief plan of attack should the Oilers want to succeed against the visitors Thursday night.
"Stay on their D a little extra and don't give them time so we can take the puck from them and go from there," he said.
The Oilers are 0-8-2 against the Predators in their last 10 meetings and could be swept in the season series once again if they don't pull out a win tonight.
"They are a special team," Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said. "They are hole-less. Their goaltending is solid, their D is the best in the National Hockey League, both offensively and defensively, and they have four lines that come at you in waves.
"We've been challenged every time we've played this team and they've gotten stronger."
FROM FRIENDS TO FOES
"I went out for dinner with a couple guys last night," said Aberg regarding his former club. "It's going to be fun to play them."
There's no shortage of motivation for Aberg coming into Thursday's tilt. The forward said there's nothing he wants to prove to his old club but there are facets of being with a new squad that has him optimistic.
"It's a fresh start," Aberg, whose last NHL goal was scored against the Oilers in Nashville's 4-0 win on Dec. 14, said. "I get to play. I got some minutes last game and hopefully, we can go from there. Maybe some power-play time as well."
Drake Caggiula shared his thoughts on Aberg facing the Preds.
"It might be a little weird," said Caggiula. "There's that friendship there but at the same time, you want to prove to them that maybe they should have held onto you.
"There's probably motivation there for him."
Aberg maintained he simply wants to play his game.
"Do my best out there and hopefully get the win," he said.
Oilers defence prospect Ethan Bear will make his NHL debut against the Predators.
The Ochapowace, SK, product has compiled six goals and 16 points in 34 games this season with the American Hockey League's Bakersfield Condors and will get a chance to show what he can do at the next level.
Of course, for all rookies, nerves are apparent in their first game. Bear experienced that at this morning's pre-game skate.
"I messed up a few drills. I didn't know what was going on there," Bear said jokingly, adding that many of the players have tried to make him feel as comfortable as possible.
"The guys were kind of joking with me saying, 'Don't be nervous, you've only worked 20 years to get here,'" he said.
Caggiula provided advice for the 20-year-old right-shot rearguard: "Do what got you here. Play your game and enjoy the experience."
McLellan said Bear's defence partner will depend on Kris Russell's status for tonight. The defender is dealing with a hand injury but participated in the morning skate and said he feels good. He will be evaluated before a decision is made.
McLellan disclosed that defenceman Adam Larsson has returned to Sweden for his father's funeral and will miss the next two games.
Nurse - Russell Klefbom - Benning Sekera - Bear/Auvitu
-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (27-32-4) vs. PREDATORS (39-14-9)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight is the series finale between the Oilers and Predators this season. The two previously played one another in December and January.
Nashville handed Edmonton a 4-0 defeat at Rogers Place on Dec. 14. Preds netminder Juuse Saros backstopped his club with a 46-save shutout performance, while Kyle Turris picked up a goal and assist.
In their second game this season, Nashville edged Edmonton 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 9. Connor McDavid scored the lone goal for the Oilers. Nashville forward Viktor Arvidsson registered a goal and assist, and Pekka Rinne made 25 saves in the win.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers ended a three-game Californian road swing with a 5-2 loss to the Sharks. Edmonton ended the trip with a 2-1-0 record.
The club defeated the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 4-3 on Saturday and gutted out a 6-5 shootout victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
Edmonton's two-goal lead in the final minute against the Ducks vanished due to consecutive tallies from Rickard Rakell. McDavid scored the shootout winner to get the victory.
Edmonton is 4-6-0 in their last 10 games and ended the month of February 5-8-1.
Predators team scope:
The Predators are on a five-game winning streak, having most recently beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-5 in a back-and-forth affair on Tuesday. The game saw two-goal leads from both the Jets and Preds erased but was ultimately decided by NHL Trade Deadline acquisition Ryan Hartman, who scored with 1:00 minute left in the third to win the game for Nashville.
The Predators are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Their last loss came on Feb. 17 when they were downed 3-1 by the Detroit Red Wings. The squad went 10-2-2 in the month of February.
By the Numbers:
Connor McDavid has 28 goals and 75 points in 63 games this season. The Oilers Captain is three goals away from setting a new career-high with 31.
Edmonton has the worst power play and penalty kill in the League overall. Their power play is clicking at a 13.8 percent clip while their penalty killing - which is first in the League on the road with an 86.8 percentage - sits at 73.2 percent.
The Predators have five shutout wins this season - one of which coming against the Oilers in December. The club is 17-7-6 on the road.
The Predators generate offence by committee. Eight players are double-digit goal scorers and six Preds have accrued 40 or more points this season.
Defenceman P.K. Subban leads the charge with 15 goals and 48 points. Arvidsson sits behind him with 22 goals and 44 points.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne is 19-6-1 with a .917 save percentage and 2.32 goals-against average all-time against the Oilers.
Nashville General Manager David Poile is one win shy of setting the record for most NHL wins for a general manager with 1,320.
Poile tied former Oilers General Manager Glen Sather with the win against Winnipeg, reaching his 1,319th career NHL victory. The Preds' GM since the 1998-99 season owns a record of 1,319-1,028-145 (192 ties).
OILERS - Zack Kassian (leg) is day-to-day; Kris Russell (hand) is day-to-day; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (cracked ribs) is on IR.