NASHVILLE, TN - The Oilers are in Music City for a showdown with the Nashville Predators - a rematch of a 3-2 shootout loss in Edmonton on January 20. That game got a little chippy and physical with everything from fights to big hits.
Could we see some of that bad blood bubble to the surface again tonight? The Oilers seem to think there's a chance it takes that course.
"They play hard, and our guys matched that level," said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. "It was a spirited game with a lot of hits and chippy stuff. I expect much of the same tonight."
"They're a good team," added winger Patrick Maroon. "They're fast and I think they play just like Minnesota. They've got some big, heavy guys over there too that can play heavy. I'm looking forward to it tonight."
KINGS OF THE ROAD
Edmonton has been a staunch opponent for opposing teams on the road this season. Away from Rogers Place, the Oilers are 15-7-5.
"Not too sure what it is," said McDavid. "I think the guys like playing on the road, guys feel good and I don't know what it is really. It's a good thing to have in our game."
McDavid has been particularly effective on the road this season, with a league-high 36 points away from Edmonton. Although the Oilers are cognizant of the matchups teams will throw at them and they adjust to it, McDavid has shown the Oilers coaches they can throw him out there and let him run.
"The best players, the top five or six players in the League, play against matches," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "It doesn't matter where you are, at home or the road, coaches go through hoops to get them. If we spend a lot of the night trying to avoid it, it takes our team out of rhythm and usually that star player doesn't get an opportunity to find his game real quick and he's out of sorts. I don't mind putting Connor out against Fisher or Kesler or those types of players. He and his group need to find ways to overcome it."
The Oilers might make some tweaks to their lineup tonight. However, we won't know the extent until pre-game warmup, as the team held an optional morning skate. McLellan shuffled the lines a bit during the team's 5-2 loss to Minnesota two night ago, but went back to the standard groupings at practice yesterday.
"We still may see some changes in the lineup, the lines, tonight," said McLellan. "As we approach this game, it could be one or two little things. We have to look at the lineup and take note of individuals or groups of people that are getting stale. Sometimes it just doesn't work over the long haul and you've got to mix a little bit and also look for ways to get individuals going."
One of the in-game changes McLellan made against the Wild was taking Maroon off the McDavid line. Should they be back together again tonight, they'll look to quickly establish some success so as not to be split again.
"Any time you're going through a game like we were going through the other night, you're looking for any kind of spark and switching up the lines for a bit and sometimes it does that," said McDavid. "I think playing with Patty has been a great thing for Leon (Draisaitl) and I and we definitely want to keep that going so you want to try to figure it out early."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (28-16-8) at PREDATORS (24-18-8)
TV: 6:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight is the second of three meetings between the Oilers and Nashville this season and the first of two games in Nashville. The last time these teams met in Nashville was on October 10th, 2015, where the Predators defeated the Oilers 2-0.
The last time these teams met was on December 20th in Edmonton, when the Predators defeated the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout. Matt Hendricks and Milan Lucic both scored for the Oilers and Cam Talbot made 42 saves in the loss.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are second in the NHL with 35 points on the road this season. The Oilers have a 15-7-5 record in 27 games, trailing only Minnesota. The New York Rangers have 34 points (17-7-0).
The Oilers lead the NHL with 88 goals on the road and are second with 20 road power play goals.
With a two-game sweep of Anaheim and San Jose in California just prior to the NHL All-Star break, the Oilers now have 15 road wins in 2016-17, three more than they had in 2015-16.
The Oilers power play on the road ranks third in the NHL with a 25.6 % efficiency.
Connor McDavid remains in first place in NHL scoring, with 59 points (17G, 42A) in 51 games. He has a four-point lead on Sidney Crosby (PIT). McDavid has led the league in scoring at some point in all four months of the 2016-17 season. He has led or co-led the NHL in scoring since Nov. 22, 2016.
The Oilers rank among the NHL leaders in the following categories:
64 points (28-16-8) - ninth in the NHL 151 goals scored - eighth in the NHL 1636 shots on goal - third in the NHL 31.5 shots on goal per game - sixth in the NHL 1259 hits - fifth in the NHL
Predators team scope:
The Predators have earned at least one point in eight of their last 10 games (7-2-1). Eight of those 10 games were decided by one goal and the Predators were 6-1-1 in those games.
Nashville is 15-1-5 when scoring first, 9-0-3 when leading after one period and 17-0-4 when leading after two. One regulation loss all season when scoring first leads the entire NHL. The Oilers are tied for second with three regulation losses when scoring first (17-3-3).
Ryan Johansen has six points (1 goal, 5 assists) and two multi-point games in his last five contests. He ranks tied for ninth in the Western Conference in assists (28). He has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in his last four games against the Oilers.
Nashville has won seven consecutive games against Edmonton and outscored the Oilers, 19-8, in those contests. The Oilers have not scored more than two goals in any of those seven games and have only one power play goal total (1-for-23).
Pekka Rinne has won seven consecutive games against the Oilers and recorded two shutouts in that span. He has posted a 1.12 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in those contests and saved 196 of 204 shots faced. Rinne has not allowed more than two goals in any of those seven starts.