NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues as the Edmonton Oilers visit the Nashville Predators at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.
The Predators and Oilers are two teams living different lives in the NHL this season. After impressive 2016-17 campaigns, Nashville remains a contender for another year in the Western Conference while Edmonton is looking to use the second half to salvage a disastrous season — one that has seats getting pretty hot.
While they currently sit third in the Central Division, the Predators are having some issues of their own at the moment. They’re 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and two of their top stars are some difficulty scoring, all while their top point-getter, Filip Forsberg, is out 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury. His absence has negatively affected linemates Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, who have combined for three goals in their last 11 games.
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“(Forsberg’s) one of the best players in the league,” Johansen told Adam Vingan of The Tennesean, “so obviously he’s going to make me look like a better player and make (Arvidsson) look like a better player and make our line altogether better.”
It’s going to take a lot to make the Oilers better. Where to start? First, if things are to improve, it’s going to be with head coach Todd McLellan behind the bench. General manager Peter Chiarelli gave him a vote of confidence this week and isn’t planning on making any changes.
The team that was seventh in scoring last season is 15th as we approach the All-Star break. Their power play has dropped from 22.9 percent last season to 16.1 percent through 43 games. The penalty kill? It’s an ugly 71.5 percent, which is the 8th-worst output of all-time since the NHL started tracking the stat.
“It starts with a couple of shifts, then a full period, then a couple of periods, then a game,” said forward Zack Kassian via the Edmonton Journal. “That’s how you build momentum. “If you’re looking for excuses that’s normally when you’re not working hard enough. When you’re working hard and things are happening you tend to get bounces. We’re not getting bounces right now.”
The trade deadline arrives on Feb. 26. At what point does Chiarelli make the decision to either look toward next year or try and throw his team a life line by making a trade or two to try and spark the lineup? This is Connor McDavid‘s final year on the cheap. Next year, his cap hit jumps up to $12.5 million and the challenge to ice a competitive roster around him begins.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.