GDB 28.0: Clinging to life

Jonathan Willis
March 17 2013 01:01PM

Sunday’s game finds two teams in more or less the same place. Nashville has been terrible on the road and find themselves in danger of falling out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Edmonton, meanwhile, has struggled mightily at home and is two points back of the Predators in the post-season race.

The Playoff Picture

Adjusting for games played, San Jose is on pace for the final playoff spot in the West and a team hoping to catch them will need 54 points. The chart below shows the current standings projected over 48 games and the record necessary to get to 54 points.

For any of the teams on the outside looking in, it’s going to take an impressive run to make the post-season, one that has to start almost immediately. One of Nashville or Edmonton can knock off one of those needed wins tonight.

The Lineup

Because the Oilers held an optional skate today, it isn’t clear exactly what the lines will be – and Ralph Krueger’s comments yesterday indicated that some players are gameday decisions. Based on yesterday's practice lines and Krueger’s press availability, the following are a good guess for the forwards:

  • Taylor Hall – Shawn Horcoff – Ales Hemsky
  • [Jones or Hartikainen] – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
  • Magnus Paajarvi – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov
  • Mike Brown – Ryan Smyth – Lennart Petrell

The defence is less clear, but Mark Fistric is expected to return to the lineup in place of Corey Potter. Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry will likely be one pairing; my guess would be that Justin and Nick Schultz are reunited on one of the other two and that Ryan Whitney and Fistric form the third.


Game day prediction: After getting blanked 6-0 in Nashville, the Oilers will be out for blood, but because the Predators have their backs against the wall it will be close. A 3-2 shootout victory after a blown third period lead helps the Oilers stay alive.

Obvious game day prediction: Mike Brown and Rich Clune find each other for a rematch of the fight they had in the first period the last time these two teams played. Clune manages to keep it closer than he did last time around, but Brown still finishes with the takedown.

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Nashville is one of two teams that Jordan Eberle has played regularly and has a 20% or better shooting percentage against (Chicago is the other), but last time around he went pointless and minus-3 with just a single shot. He scores in regulation on one of three shots he takes, then pots the game-winning goal in the shootout, ending a recent funk in that department.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.