Following a light home schedule in the month of January, the Nashville Predators are set to play the first of nine at Bridgestone Arena in February, beginning tonight as they host the Edmonton Oilers.
It's the second of three meetings between the clubs this season; Nashville defeated Edmonton in a shootout on Jan. 20, 3-2. The Oilers will make another visit to Tennessee before the month is out.
Nashville came out of the All-Star Break with a 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night that saw both Colin Wilson and Calle Jarnkrok tally a goal and an assist. Despite the result, the Preds are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have points in five straight at home.
Ryan Johansen leads the Predators with 36 points, followed by Filip Forsberg with 32 and then Mike Fisher and Viktor Arvidsson who have 30 points apiece. James Neal leads the team with 17 goals and Forsberg has tallied 15 times this season, followed once more by Fisher and Arvidsson with 12 each. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is 19-13-6 on the season; Juuse Saros has gone 5-3-2.
Edmonton (28-16-8) is coming off a 5-2 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday but had won three straight on the road following their shootout loss to Nashville. As was the case when the Preds faced them last, Connor McDavid continues to lead the Oilers and the NHL in scoring with 59 points in 52 games. Leon Draisaitl has 20 goals and 47 points, followed by Jordan Eberle with 32 and Milan Lucic with 30. Cam Talbot has started 46 games this season, going 26-13-7.
Video: The Preds play the first of nine at home in February
Morning Update: Head Coach Peter Laviolette said Pekka Rinne will start in net for the Preds tonight. Roman Josi (Injured Reserve; upper-body) took part in the team's optional morning skate, but is not expected to play versus the Oilers.
See the Predators projected lineup by clicking here.
As the Preds begin a three-game home stand starting with the Oil, here are three things to watch:
Laviolette hasn't seen much reason to change up his forward trios as of late; the lines have remained largely unchanged over the past few games, and the bench boss is pleased with the chances he's seeing from his club on offense. On the contrary, he'd prefer to see a few less opportunities against his goaltenders, something that will be a focus tonight.
"We've generated lots of chances, but I think it's more on the other side, just defensively making sure that we're limiting the opposition," Laviolette said. "Chances have been high both ways, so we're getting our looks, but we have to continue to play a smarter game and defend the right way to make sure that they're not getting the looks that they want."
Video: Forsberg, Ekholm and Zolnierczy talk Oilers vs. Preds
Contributions from the entire lineup are important for the success of any team, and Nashville has seen that lately. Craig Smith scored twice last week against Columbus, and both Colin Wilson and Calle Jarnkrok added a goal and an assist on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Look to see if another forward - or defenseman - steps up tonight on the offensive side of the token for the Preds.
Video: Laviolette says Pekka Rinne will start vs. Oilers
In the first meeting, the Predators did an excellent job when it came to limiting Connor McDavid's chances, and the same will likely be necessary tonight for a chance at victory. Averaging more than a point-per-game, McDavid is one of the quickest and most skilled players in the League, so Nashville's top defensemen, as well as the forward line Laviolette chooses to match against McDavid's, will be key in tonight's game.
When You Go:
Tonight's 7 p.m. CT start at Bridgestone Arena comes with a 5 p.m. opening for Hockey Happy Hour - half-priced domestic draft beer and sodas at bars between Barrel House and FOX Sports Tennessee Bar until 6:30 p.m. Season-ticket holders can still get the offer through the first intermission by showing their passport.
Take It In:
Television coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Predators Live! on Fox Sports Tennessee; Predators Pregame begins at 6 p.m. on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.