The Edmonton Oilers have hit Music City on American Thanksgiving, hoping to bounce back from their 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. The Oilers catch a bit of a break with Nashville playing last night on the road in Columbus, a 4-0 shutout of the Blue Jackets.
"We know they played last night, so we want to jump on them early," said Oilers forward Ryan Smyth. "That would be the best case scenario. Then we'd start this nice road trip off on the right foot but we know we're up against a team that plays very well and we've got to be prepared for it."
The Oilers have mixed up their lineup in advance of tonight's game. Corey Potter draws out of the defensive lineup while freshly recalled Denis Grebeshkov will get the call tonight.
Grebeshkov has played in 11 games with the Oklahoma City Barons this season in the AHL.
"The reports from the American Hockey League are that he's improved," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "I think the biggest thing with Denis is he got behind the eight ball. I don't think he was in very good shape when he came in, coming back to this league. Then he got hurt and then he really fell behind the eight ball. He just needed to go play, get some minutes, get his feet underneath him, get his fitness level up to a higher standard. The good thing about Denis is, Denis can breakout the puck. He can make a play."
"It's always nice when you're playing a lot," said Grebeshkov. "You're getting back your confidence, which is tough, so it helps."
In addition to the blue line shuffle, forwards Mark Arcobello and Ryan Jones will return to the lineup after missing the last five games.
"They're both coming back in and they've waited patiently for their chance," said Eakins. "Both guys have… obviously, with Arco and his numbers, has given us an unexpected start to his season. With the way our centres lineup now and the look for our team, he was out of the lineup. Jones has played fine and actually, well. We've got this group of kind of six players right now up front that are interchangeable very easily. Now it's these guys' turn to see if they can get something going."
Arcobello has 12 points in 20 NHL games this season with the Oilers and is happy to return to the ice in game action for the first time since November 13 against Dallas.
"I'm ready to get back in and help contribute any way I can," he said. "Hopefully I can pick up where I left off and I need to do whatever the coaches ask."
Arcobello's situation was unique as he was producing offensively and contributing solid results on the ice, having just been told to 'get a place' to live in Edmonton. Then came his brief assignment to OKC and ensuing five game hiatus.
"It was kind of a different situation there," he said. "We kind of went on a winning streak so I don't think coach wanted to change much there. The only thing I can really think about right now is getting back in tonight and hopefully we can get the win and start another streak."
Luke Gazdic and Will Acton will sit out in favour of Arcobello and Jones.
Ilya Bryzgalov will make his first start in net as a member of the Edmonton Oilers tonight. After playing 34 minutes in relief of Devan Dubnyk against Chicago, in which he stopped 12 of 13 shots, Bryzgalov gets the nod in Nashville.
"Just stop the puck," Eakins said when asked what to expect out of his new goaltender. "That'd be a good start. I thought the way he came in to the last game was very good. He came in, a veteran guy. I thought he had a little swagger. He told me he was nervous going in which, I didn't see any of that. Everything's been good so far. Off the ice, he's been really interacting well with his new teammates, he's been working extremely well in practice and having fun with it. I'm excited to see how it goes tonight."
Returning to Nashville brings memories of an odd circumstance for Oilers defenceman Denis Grebeshkov. The blue liner was involved in a trade from the Oilers to Nashville in March of 2010. The trade came a day before the Oilers were playing the Predators. Which meant for a quick locker room switch and a unique experience.
"It reminds me of that time when I got traded," Grebeshkov said about being in Nashville. "All the guys still remember that too so when I just had to switching rooms, putting my stuff from one room to the other to play the next game against the Oilers. I scored a goal, had an assist and got a first star. It was alright I guess, but I'm real excited first of all, to be back with the Oilers, to play a game in the NHL and it's probably a special game for me because I played here too."
The Oilers acquired a second round pick in the 2010 draft for Grebeshkov. He played four games for Nashville that year, and then two games in the playoffs.
Big story: Ilya Bryzgalov is scheduled to start his first game in goal for the Oilers since signing with them Nov. 8 and joining the team Nov. 18. Bryzgalov relieved Devan Dubnyk on Tuesday in a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, stopping 12 shots before allowing a goal late in the third period.
"I think [Ilya is] comfortable with his situation here. He knows how the game goes," coach Dallas Eakins told the Oilers website Wednesday. "This isn't a young player coming in that is not quite sure how it works. He's a veteran guy. He understands that whoever's hot and whoever's winning is going to be in the net. And if it's the other guy, then he's good with it.
"All Bryz wants is our team to win. So he'll get his chance to run with it now, and that's what you need in your room. … It should be about the team winning, and that's a real breath of fresh air for us."
Dubnyk made 10 straight starts and was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday.
Oilers: After winning four times in its first 21 games, Edmonton built a three-game winning streak before the loss to Chicago.
"We didn't deserve a 5-1 loss; I think we played better [than that]," forward Jesse Joensuu said. "I think we have to carry on from those two home games that we played; I think we played the best hockey that we played this season. ... You can't win every game in this League but you have to bounce back and start winning again. We really can't afford losing anymore."
Three times, the Oilers have followed a win with a five-game losing streak.
"The thing you want to try to instill quickly now is, is we've gone through the suffering, we've played some good games, we weren't great last game, it's back to you do everything you can not to lose two in a row," Eakins said. "I like where our guys were at yesterday, today; they seemed to have let it go, where when we were in the depths of a lot of losses, you could feel it when they walked in the room."
Eakins said Bryzgalov has fit in on the team and described him as a friendly soul and intelligent guy.
"There's a couple of things that happened here in practice today, where he made a couple of big point-blank saves and in a cheering way, he's yelling at me, 'There's no cheating in this net! There's no cheating in this crease!" the coach said. "It was a message, but he was saying it in a funny way as well, so it kept it light. With keeping it light, he's still working extremely hard, which is a great mixture."
Center Mark Arcobello and forward Ryan Jones are likely to play after each was a healthy scratch for the past five games. The Oilers recalled defenseman Denis Grebeshkov from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League.
Edmonton plays at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
Predators: Nashville started a span of three games in four days Wednesday with a 4-0 road win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Predators have won five of six to climb three games above .500 for the second time this season.
"Our line goes kind of similar to our team," Cullen told The Tennessean. "We're getting in on the forecheck, and creating turnovers, getting pucks back and making some good things happen.
"[Spaling] is just a really good, honest, hard-working player who can put the puck in the net," Cullen added. "[Smith] and I have played together the majority of the season. We kind of feel like our games complement each other. So it's been good, I'm pretty pleased with the chemistry."
The Predators are 11-1-2 when scoring first, 9-0-1 when leading after the first period.
Goalie Marek Mazanec seems to have taken hold of the No. 1 job and made 19 saves in the shutout Wednesday, his second in his past five starts. Carter Hutton could play this game.
Who's hot: Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has six assists in his past three games. Forward David Perron has six points in his past four games, forwards Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall each have five in his past four. ... The Predators have not allowed a power-play goal in six games (16-for-16). Mazanec has a .955 save percentage in his past five games. Forward Gabriel Bourque has seven points in his past seven games.
Injury report: Oilers forward Nail Yakupov (leg) will play. Defenseman Philip Larsen (back) practiced Tuesday after missing three games. … Predators forwards Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Filip Forsberg (upper body) did not play Wednesday. Goalie Pekka Rinne (hip) is on injured reserve, with an MRI exam moved from this week to Dec. 5 due to scheduling around Thanksgiving, according to The Tennessean.