An already successful homestand has helped the Nashville Predators remain competitive in the crowded Western Conference playoff race. Another win over the Edmonton Oilers would move them higher in the standings.
The surging Predators look for a season-high fifth straight victory Tuesday night while trying for their seventh in a row at home over the Oilers.
While seven points separate sixth from 13th place in the West, Edmonton (31-26-5) is currently seventh with 67 points. Nashville, meanwhile, is two spots and one point back of the Oilers.
“It’s a tight race,” Predators defenseman Shea Weber said. “We’re just excited. It’s an exciting time of year and it’s going to be close all the way through.”
With points at a premium, winning at home is a must and Nashville (31-28-4) is making the most of its current opportunity. The Predators have won three in a row to open a five-game homestand that concludes Thursday against Columbus - two points ahead of them in the West.
While Edmonton is 16-14-1 on the road, the Oilers haven’t had much success against the Predators of late, especially in Nashville where they last won 5-1 on Oct. 29, 2005.
Nashville has won two of three meetings this season and 10 of the last 11 in the series. Each club, though, has seven goals against the other in 2008-09.
One of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL with 159 goals, Nashville matched the second-highest total in club history with an 8-0 victory over Detroit on Saturday. Jason Arnott had the first hat trick of the season for the Predators, who scored 10 combined goals in their previous three victories.
“Anytime you score some goals you have to realize how you are scoring them,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We are moving the puck with speed, we are getting the puck in deep and going to the net hard.”
Arnott has scored five of his team-leading 26 goals in his last three games. The former Oiler, though, has been held without a point against them this season.
Rookie Pekka Rinne stopped 30 shots against Detroit for his sixth shutout of the season.
“It’s not going to happen every day that you have a game like that,” said Rinne, who was 9-2-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average in February.
Rinne has allowed three goals on 77 shots while going 2-0-0 versus Edmonton this season.
The Oilers won 3-2 over visiting Minnesota on Saturday to finish a 2-1-1 homestand. Ales Hemsky scored his team-leading 20th, Tom Gilbert had a goal with an assist and Dwayne Roloson made 43 saves for Edmonton, which opens a four-game road trip Tuesday.
“It was the biggest game of the year until Tuesday,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “Nashville is back in. It looks like it could come down to the last week and we’ll see who wins the last game of the year.”
Roloson is 22-16-5 with a 2.68 GAA on the season and 1-1-0 with a 2.03 GAA against Nashville in 2008-09.