Predators aiming to go into break on high note vs. Oilers
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Austin Watson felt partially responsible for how the Nashville Predators lost their game Thursday night, so he resolved to make amends Saturday night.
And make amends he did, with the first two-goal game of his career in a 4-3 victory at Los Angeles that allowed Nashville to salvage a 1-1-1 record from a western road swing.
It was a 180-degree turn from a 3-2 overtime loss two nights earlier in Arizona, where Watson took a late penalty that led to the Coyotes' game-tying power-play marker. That set up the extra period and a defeat to the NHL's worst team.
"It was something I wasn't very happy with," he said of the loss in Arizona. "To come out here and help be a factor in this win tonight and help our team bounce back and get the two points we needed, it was important to me."
Tuesday night, Watson and the Predators (24-11-6) will try to enter their mandatory five-day break on a good note when they welcome the Edmonton Oilers to Bridgestone Arena for the start of a four-week stretch where they will enjoy the comforts of home cooking.
Eight of Nashville's next nine games, including five straight, will be at home. The only road game will be at New Jersey on Jan. 25. While some of the league's best teams, such as Vegas, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and the New York Rangers, will be coming to town, this should be a good opportunity for the Predators to accumulate more points and put pressure on Central Division leaders Winnipeg and St. Louis.
The victory in Los Angeles was only Nashville's third in nine games, one of the few rough patches it experienced over the season's first half. The Predators are on a 108-point pace, but needed two points pretty badly to close what had been a frustrating trip.
"I thought our guys played hard tonight," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "If we were judging the road trip by effort and what your eyes see on the ice, I thought the guys competed pretty hard."
Laviolette learned Sunday that he will coach the Central Division team at All-Star weekend Jan. 26-28 in Tampa Bay. It will be the second time he's earned an All-Star trip in four seasons as the Predators' coach.
Back in October, some people thought Edmonton (18-22-3) might send coach Todd McLellan to All-Star weekend. Instead, the Oilers have been a big disappointment, following up last season's trip to the Western Conference semifinals with a major step backward.
Sunday's 4-1 defeat in Chicago was their sixth in seven games. Edmonton has scored only three goals in the last five games, getting outscored by 16 in that span. Leon Draisaitl is the only forward to score a goal in that stretch, and that was on a power play.
"When you're not at the top of your game, you've got to be more detailed and positionally strong," McLellan said. "We're going to have to keep at it."
The Oilers are expected to start Cam Talbot (15-15-2, 3.12 goals-against average, .902 save percentage) in net against Pekka Rinne (20-8-3, 2.47, .924). Rinne made 26 saves to earn the win in Los Angeles.
Updated January 9, 2018