EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers host the Nashville Predators for the first time this season, capping off a six-game homestand that has seen the club go 4-1-0. Finding comfort and establishing a winning pedigree was a mandate for the Oilers who will play on the road the next three games.
"We kind of saw this in our schedule, we've had a lot of road games, lot of road trips but this was a chance for us to get our game on track at home," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "We've taken a lot of pride in that throughout the last four or five games. At the start of the season, our home record wasn't quite where we wanted it to be. We're starting to pick it up a little bit so it's definitely important for us and got to end it on a good note tonight."
The Oilers are 13-8-2 through 23 home games.
The Predators are hunting for a win against Edmonton after defeating the Calgary Flames 4-3 Thursday night. Nashville got out to a 4-0 lead versus the Flames but nearly squandered it in the final four minutes.
"They could have figured they had the game in the bag," said Oilers forward Drake Caggiula. "It's just the way it is when you play 82 games, sometimes that happens. I'm sure they're going to come out with more fire today just because of what happened last time."
The Predators are 9-12-2 in visiting games and 21-17-7 overall.
The Predators have been playing without stalwart defencemen P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. Nashville announced that Subban is activated and expected to play tonight against the Oilers after missing the previous 16 games.
Josi's absence is still a big blow that the Oilers forwards will look to exploit.
"Anytime that happens, especially in the D core, you got to try and take advantage of it," said Caggiula. "Guys are playing maybe in roles they're not used to, or not as much and you got to try and take advantage of that anytime you can and put their defence through as much work as possible."
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan knows Nashville has been missing some firepower but the franchise historically produces standout defencemen.
"They still play their team game, they still have their backend guys," McLellan said. "That's the strength of Nashville's organization, in my opinion. David [Poile] and Paul Fenton and their group have always done a tremendous job with defencemen, bringing d-men in draft-wise, finding them in the American League, doing whatever they do but they bring them in and they always seem to be able to play their system well."
The Oilers bench boss reassured the importance of not focusing too much on the absence of Josi and return of Subban.
"If we sit back and say 'These two aren't in the lineup so it's going to be easy on the backend,' we're dreaming."
Goaltender Cam Talbot will make his 43rd start of the season. The busiest goalie in the League has a 2.42 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
"Cam is fresh, he's ready to go and we're choosing to play him tonight," said McLellan.
Matt Hendricks will take injured Jujhar Khaira's spot in the lineup, while Matt Benning is feeling much better after missing Wednesday's match against the Florida Panthers with an illness. He'll draw in for Eric Gryba.
The Predators will likely start Pekka Rinne, who's had the Oilers number. In his last six starts against Edmonton, the Finnish netminder is 6-0, with a 0.99 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. He's also shut the Oilers out twice in that span.
"We got to find ways to get to him and cause traffic and make his night as hard as possible," said Caggiula.
Both teams are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (25-15-7) vs. PREDATORS (21-17-7)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
This game marks the first of three meetings between the Oilers and Predators this season and the lone game in Edmonton. The next time these teams will meet is on February 2nd in Nashville.
The last time these teams met was on March 14th, 2016 in Edmonton, when the Predators defeated the Oilers by a score of 3-2. Jordan Eberle and Connor McDavid both posted points in the game.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers have dropped each of their last six games to the Predators but they come into tonight's game on a four-game winning streak. A victory tonight versus the Predators would give the Oilers five wins on their six-game homestand as the team hits the road starting tomorrow night in Calgary.
Edmonton is 10-3-2 in its last 15 games and 8-1-2 versus the tough Central Division.
Linemates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl both reached 100 career points against Florida on Jan. 18, 2017. McDavid had three points (1G, 2A), and now has 102 points (31G, 71A) in 92 games.
Connor McDavid Among active NHL players, he is the fourth fastest to reach 100 points (source: Elias Sports). McDavid has points in six of his last eight games (1G, 10A, 11PTS).
Active NHL players who have needed the fewest games to reach 100 career NHL points (Source: Elias Sports)
In Oilers history - other players to record 100 points in 100 games or less 61 - Wayne Gretzky 85 - Blair MacDonald 97 - Glenn Anderson 100 - Jari Kurri
Leon Draisaitl Draisaitl assisted on McDavid's game-winning goal in overtime, giving him 100 points (38G, 62A), in 155 games.
McDavid and Draisaitl became the 72nd and 73rd players in Oilers history to reach 100 points with the team.
Current top scoring Oilers all-time (only with the Oilers) (14) Jordan Eberle 359 points (154G, 205A) in 472 games (20) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 245 points (86G, 159A) in 360 games (69) Connor McDavid 102 points (31G, 71A) in 92 games (71) Leon Draisaitl 100 points (38G, 62A), in 156 games
Predators team scope:
Nashville comes into tonight's game having defeated the Calgary Flames 4-3 last night and four wins in their last five games. The Predators sit in the second Wild Card spot with 49 points, eight less than the Oilers.
The Preds swept the season series with the Oilers in 2015-16, 3-0-0. James Neal (3g-0a) and Mattias Ekholm (1g-2a) each recorded three points in three games. Pekka Rinne was 3-0-0 with one shutout, a 1.00 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. He stopped 82 of 85 shots faced in 180 minutes. Rinne has won six consecutive games against the Oilers and recorded two shutouts in that span. He has posted a 0.99 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in those contests and saved 166 of 172 shots faced. Rinne has not allowed more than two goals in any of those six starts.
P.K. Subban is very close to returning from an Upper Body injury. Subban topped the Central Division in fan votes to earn the captaincy in the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 29. Subban, currently on injured reserve, has 17 points (7g-10a) in 29 games this season.