Predators brace for Oilers and Draisaitl

NHL

Fighting for a Western Conference playoff spot, the Nashville Predators can’t afford many setbacks down the stretch. That means ending their recent struggles against Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers.

Looking to close a successful homestand on a winning note, the Predators will try to avoid being swept in the season series by the Oilers on Monday night.

Nashville is one of a host of teams in the mix for the two wild-card spots in the West thanks a 10-5-1 stretch. The Predators won their first three on a season-high five-game homestand before falling 3-2 to sizzling Colorado on Saturday night.

Down 2-0, Nashville got third-period goals from Viktor Arvidsson (15th of season) and Calle Jarnkrok (13th), but could not complete the comeback. It was the Predators’ second home defeat over a seven-game stretch.

“Anytime you don’t win the game you always want to see more,” coach John Hynes told the Predators’ official website. “We’ve got to take some of the lessons from (that) one, and then it’s into Edmonton.”

Bouncing back likely won’t be easy for the Predators, who dropped the season’s first two meetings with the Oilers — both in Edmonton. They fell 4-2 on Jan. 14 then blew a 2-0 advantage in a 3-2 defeat on Feb. 8.

Draisaitl scored four times in those contests, and has eight goals in his last four games versus Nashville. The Edmonton star became the first player to 100 points this season and takes 102 into this matchup after recording two goals with an assist Saturday, as the Oilers avoided a third straight defeat with their 3-2 home win over Winnipeg.

The sixth-year forward is the seventh player in club history to post consecutive seasons of at least 100 points and sits three shy of his 2018-19 total. Draisaitl is also the first Oiler to reach 100 points in 65 or fewer games since Mark Messier in 1989-90.

“Obviously, I’m excited about it, it’s a special milestone for me, but that’s over now,” said Draisaitl, who has 10 goals with nine assists in his last 11 games. “Now, it’s about the playoffs. I think I’ve said that a million times.”

The Oilers seem a good bet to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, but also are in the mix for the Pacific Division title. At 18-13-3, Edmonton has been a relatively solid road team, but managed only one point in its last two away from home.

Mike Smith stopped 39 shots on Saturday, and has a 2.02 goals-against average while in net for both wins over Nashville this season. Teammate Mikko Koskinen, meanwhile, has allowed seven goals while losing his last two starts.

Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros each started against Edmonton this season. Saros has started the last four games. Rinne, who’s been dealing with an illness, had a 2.64 goals-against average despite losing three of his four February starts.

Nashville’s Filip Forsberg has a team-leading 18 goals, but went all 14 games in February without one. Forsberg scored at Edmonton in January, and has nine goals with six assists in 16 career games against the Oilers.

–Field Level Media

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