Right now Edmonton is only two points out of first place in their division, and one point ahead of being completely out of a playoff spot. Aside from the St Louis Blues, who are miles better than any other team in the West parity has certainly been achieved this season.
Four points separate the Stars, Avalanche, Coyotes, Flames, Canucks, Golden Knights, Oilers, and Jets, any games involving these teams facing off against one another are crucial in the standings and we are not even in February yet.
Sitting right behind these teams are the Nashville Predators who are going through some turmoil and changes but could still come out the other side as a playoff team. The Preds currently sit four points behind the Edmonton Oilers but also have three games in hand. A win tonight puts Edmonton back into the top 3 of the division and continues to keep the ankle biters at bay.
Not that winning against Nashville is any easy task. The Predators 150 goals on the season are the fourth best in the West and would place them second in the Pacific Division. Nashville sits seventh in the league in Even Strength Scoring and the only Western team better than them are the Colorado Avalanche.
Their struggles? Average to bad goaltending from Pekka Rinne and the 24 year old Juuse Saros who have almost equally split starts. Combine that with weak special teams, allowing the second most powerplay goals this season at 36, just two fewer than the dreadful Red Wings.
Tonight the Oilers will be without winger Zack Kassian who was suspended two games for attacking an animal on the ice. How a turtle got onto the ice, I still can't explain, but regardless the lines have been shuffled a bit in turn.
1.) Moving Feet - Nashville has struggled heavily on their penalty killing while Edmonton has one of the leagues most dangerous top units. Special teams could be the key to an Oilers victory. Being strong on the puck and keeping the feet moving, forcing Nashville to draw more penalties should be part of the plan.
2.) Consist Regardless Of Line - Nashville has 11 different players that have scored 7 or more goals while the Oilers have 5. Despite some of their woes this is a dangerous team that can provide offense whether or not their top line is out. It should always go without saying but no line can take a break on a shift tonight.
3.) Making The Most Of Your Chances - This isn't just about beating Pekka Rinne, who has always been dominant against the Oilers. Archibald is being given a chance on the top line with McDavid in place of Kassian tonight, Sam Gagner continues to draw in over Khaira and Patrick Russell gets back into the lineup as well. These players have all been scratched throughout the season and playing well in games like this can leave a lasting memory for the coaches.
FILM OF THE DAY
Hollywood has a tried and tested way of building suspense in an action scene, and that is a good old fashioned bomb defusing scene. Most times when our hero disarms the bomb they do so with only a second left in the timer. Every once in awhile that formula is changed as is the case in the classic Goldfinger