NASHVILLE, TN - The Oilers could not steal two points from the top-ranked team in the NHL on Friday night, but that doesn't mean they don't feel good about their efforts. In a tight 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in D.C., Edmonton continued to see they could play with the best.
"We've done some good stuff and have some things we need to clean up as well," said Oilers Captain Connor McDavid. "Although it was a loss, it was a good game for us and we hung in there with the NHL's best. We can't hang our head about that one."
The Oilers are in the midst of their longest trip of the season, and on it they have wins against the stout Chicago Blackhawks and the hot Florida Panthers. They struggled in Tampa, but rebounded in Sunrise and in D.C.
"I think putting together a couple of games where we are playing how we wanted to play is crucial moving forward as a unit," said Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson. "We didn't get the two points (in Washington), but there were definitely a lot of good things that happened. If we continue on that way, I think we'll have success moving forward."
Next up for the Oilers is a showdown with the Predators on Sunday afternoon, a repeat of a matchup that took place February 2 - a 2-0 loss to the Preds.
"I think they've got a lot of big weapons over there - good, heavy shots," said Davidson. "Defence is going to be huge again. Last time we were here, we kind of saw their best. That's what we're going to be ready for."
The Preds have a game against the Capitals Saturday, so the Oil don't know which goaltender they'll face yet. However, no matter who is in net, it's going to be tough to beat that backend.
"It starts in goal," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "I don't know who we'll get with back-to-back games, but both of their goaltenders provide different challenges. Pekka Rinne is huge, he's confident, he's played really well against us, he has the ability to handle the puck. I think their backend controls the game for them and always has. Their team has been built around that. Then their forwards are really opportunistic. They have some really good energy people that create opportunities for some of their shooters."
Both injured defencemen Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse are game-time decisions Sunday in Nashville.
Larsson has been out since the game in Tampa on the 21st. If he can go, Larsson provides some physicality and a solid defensive partner for Oscar Klefbom.
"His ability to defend and his physicality," said McLellan. "He keeps some skill players honest, either in open ice, along the boards or around the net-front area. That comes into play, and when you're doing that, you're physical, it allows a guy like Klef to be more aggressive and roam free as a breakout player, as a guy who joins the rush, and his offence comes into play a little more. That's what we're missing."
With Nurse, he's also a tough, physical guy. But he also brings a good energy element to the game.
"He certainly does," said McLellan. "It's been a trait for him for many years now, not just with us but as he came through the junior ranks. That's one thing you can always count on from Darnell, is the intensity and passion is there. We've got to remember, he's been out for a long, long time so when he does get to play we'll have to manage him a little bit maybe minute-wise and his matchups, but also allow him to get back into it. There may be some mistakes he typically doesn't make but that happens with any player after being out for a few months."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (33-21-8) at PREDATORS (30-22-9)
TV: 3:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet 360
Sunday's game marks the third and final meeting between the Oilers and Predators this season and the second of two games in Nashville.
The last time these teams met was on February 2 in Nashville, when the Predators shut out the Oilers by a score of 2-0. Cam Talbot made 25 saves in the loss.
Oilers team scope:
This is Edmonton's fifth game in their six-game road trip. Through the first four games, the club has won two and lost two.
Leon Draisaitl scored last game, extending his point streak to two games and he now has four points (2G, 2A) in his last five games.
Draisaitl leads the Oilers in goals (23), power play points (20), power play goals (10) and he is tied for fourth in the NHL in power play goals. He also ranks third on Edmonton in game winning goals (3).
The Cologne, Germany native has posted career highs in points (54), goals (23), game winning goals (3), power play goals (10) and power play points (20). He is one assist away from tying his career high in assists (32).
Maroon has registered four points (2G, 2A) in his last seven games and has 20 goals on the season, improving on his career best. His previous career best was 12 goals in a season (2015-16 with Anaheim and Edmonton).
Maroon has posted seven points (2G, 5A) and 25 penalty minutes against the Central Division this season.
Since joining the Oilers, Maroon has 44 points (28G, 16A) in 77 games. The St. Louis native had 26 goals in 204 games with Anaheim. Maroon also has a +16 career plus-minus rating in his time with the Oilers, after a -8 career mark with the Ducks.
Predators team scope:
Nashville has defeated the Oilers eight straight times with Edmonton's last win coming on March 18, 2014 by the score of 5-1. The Preds are 18-7-7 on home ice this season.
The Predators have 69 points in 61 games and occupy third place in the Central Division. Nashville has picked up points in each of their last four games (3-0-1).
Ryan Johansen leads the Predators in scoring with 43 points in 60 games (9 goals). Filip Forsberg leads all Nashville skaters with 22 goals on the season.
Pekka Rinne has a 2.48 goals-against average and .916 save percentage along with a 23-15-6 record on the season. Juuse Saros played on Saturday in Nashville's 5-2 win over Washington so it's likely that Rinne gets the call on Sunday against the Oilers.
Rinne has won eight consecutive games against the Oilers and recorded three shutouts in that span. He has posted a .980 goals-against average and .966 save percentage in those contests and saved 227 of 235 shots faced. Rinne has not allowed more than two goals in any of those eight starts.
Ryan Johansen has four points (1g-3a) in two games against Edmonton this season, while Viktor Arvidsson has three points (2g-1a) and Filip Forsberg has two assists in two contests. Rinne is 2-0-0 with a .960 goals-against average and .968 save percentage in two games. He has stopped 61 of 63 shots.
P.K. Subban has 13 points (2g-11a) in 12 career games against the Oilers.