EDMONTON OILERS (22-24-5) at
FLORIDA PANTHERS (22-24-4)
5:38 p.m. MST
Rogers Sportsnet West
630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Game Notes | Oilers/Panthers Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics
The Edmonton Oilers wrap up their five-game road trip tonight when they take on the Florida Panthers.
With a record of 1-2-1 through the first four games of the trip, the Oilers can finish the five-game jaunt at the .500 mark and head into the .500 mark potentially within five points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In their last game, the Oilers fell behind 3-0 and ultimately were defeated 4-3 by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Florida is currently tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 12th in the Eastern Conference. With 48 points, they have one less point than the Oilers with one less game played.
The Panthers are five points out of a playoff spot but are coming off a convincing 5-3 win over Eastern Conference leading Ottawa. After a strong December saw them surge to two games over .500, the Panthers have faltered somewhat with a record of 4-8-1 in their last 13 games.
This is the only regular season meeting between Edmonton and Florida though the two teams did face each other in the pre-season. Edmonton won that game 5-4. Kyle Brodziak had two goals and an assist while Ethan Moreau, Sam Gagner
and Tim Sestito also scored for the Oilers.
Just The Facts...
OILERS TO WATCH:
Edmonton's line of Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner
and Andrew Cogliano
continue to collectively play their best hockey of the season. Gagner and Cogliano in particular both have five points in their last three games. Cogliano has two goals and three assists while Gagner has a goal and four helpers. Since being united as a line, the trio has 13 points in three games... Another line doing well for the team is that of Dustin Penner
, Shawn Horcoff
and Ales Hemsky
. Horcoff and Hemsky have picked up points in eight of their last nine games while Penner has at least a point in five of his last six. Overall, in their last nine games (during which the Oilers are 5-3-1) the line has picked up 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points which is an average of four points per game.
PANTHERS TO WATCH:
With eight players out due to injury, junior-aged forward Shawn Matthias was recalled on January 18 from his junior team, the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League on an emergency basis and immediately showed he belonged in the NHL. He has graduated to the team's top line alongside Olli Jokinen and Richard Zednik. In his second of three games played so far he scored twice and had 21:18 of icetime... Forwards Nathan Horton and David Booth along with defenceman and Edmonton native Jay Bouwmeester are hot offensively right now for Florida. Horton had a career-high four assists Tuesday night against Ottawa. Horton has eight assists in his last five games and a plus-3 rating. Horton now leads Florida with 26 assists on the season. Booth has four goals and two assists in his last six games with a plus-4 rating. Overall, Booth leads the Panthers with a plus-9 rating for the season and is second on the team in goals with 14. Bouwmeester has three goals and two assists in his last six games and is tied for fifth among NHL defensemen with nine goals on the season... Tomas Vokoun picked up his 20th win of the season on Tuesday, marking the fifth straight season that he reached that milestone.
Edmonton – Geoff Sanderson (back) is out. Raffi Torres (knee) is out; Florida – Branislav Mezei (hand) is questionable. Jozef Stumpel (shoulder) is questionable. Rostislav Olesz (hand) is questionable. Garth Murray is out. Ville Peltonen (foot) is out. Mike Van Ryn (wrist) is out. Noah Welch (shoulder) is out. Cory Murphy (shoulder) is out.
Florida has done well against Western Conference opponents this season with a 3-2-2 record through seven games played but have not beaten Edmonton since March 9, 2002 - a span of three games... This is the Oilers' 10th and final game against Eastern Conference opposition this season. In the previous nine games, the Oilers are 4-4-1... Tonight is Edmonton's first game at the BankAtlantic Center since December 7, 2002. The last time the two teams met in the regular season, Edmonton won 4-1 on January 2, 2007 at Rexall Place... All-time, Edmonton is 7-7-3 n 17 games against the Panthers and 2-5-2 in games played at Florida.
The Other Side
- Things looking up for Cats - There’s 60 minutes left to play and light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what the Panthers have to look forward to tonight when they play host to Edmonton at the BankAtlantic Center. ...more
- Breaking into the NHL - Shawn Matthias reflects on his first couple days as a professional hockey player, scoring his first NHL goal, and the differences between the OHL and the NHL, among other things. ...more
- Matthias strong in NHL debut - It’s been a wild turn of events for Shawn Matthias in the last few days. Just Wednesday, Matthias was relaxing in Belleville, Ontario. For Matthias it was a dream come true to step onto the ice in the Prudential Center. | Photos. | ...more
From the Fans
Odds and Ends
- New Oilers wallpapers available! - Oilers wallpaper featuring Fernando Pisani, Ethan Moreau, Joni Pitkanen, Dustin Penner and Mathieu Garon are now available. Follow the link to download it today. ...more
- Kevin Prendergast on Oilers Live - Oilers V.P. of Hockey Operations took your questions on Wednesday afternoon answering a number of questions about team prospects and the organization in general. Click here to listen to the show archive
From the Wire
The All-Star game is several days away, but Andrew Cogliano says the playoffs have already started for the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers will be hoping to pick up some momentum for the second half of the season on Thursday when they visit the Florida Panthers in the last game for both teams before the All-Star break.
Edmonton (22-24-5) is in second-to-last place in the Western Conference, nine points ahead of Los Angeles. The Oilers are still within striking distance of the top eight teams in the West with 49 points, but know they don't have much room for error.
The Oilers missed the postseason in 2006-07 after falling in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup finals a season earlier.
"Every game's like a playoff game for us," Cogliano said. "I mean, we've put ourselves in a situation where every night it feels like do or die for us to climb back into the race. No matter where we're playing and who we're playing it feels like that from here on out.
"We've felt like that a lot the last few years, and this year's even a little bit earlier than normal, where every single game and every point is vital for us moving forward."
Cogliano has two goals and three assists in his last three games and had a goal and an assist in Tuesday's 4-3 loss in Tampa Bay. Ales Hemsky and Steve Staios also scored for the Oilers, who have dropped four of five.
Edmonton is 1-2-1 on its current five-game road trip.
"We came into this road trip needing to take all the points we could, and if we could finish it .500, we're going to take it," defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "Again, it's another must-win. We got a few days off after that to regroup. These points are so huge, it's tough to let them slip away."
If recent history is any indication, Edmonton has a good chance at finishing the trip on a high note. The Oilers have won three straight against the Panthers (22-24-4) since a 5-4 defeat in Florida on March 8, 2002.
Thursday's game is the first meeting between the teams in Florida since a 4-0 Edmonton win on Dec. 7, 2002.
The Panthers have won two of their last three games, but are just 4-8-1 over their last 13. However, they are just four points behind first-place Carolina in a lackluster Southeast Division.
Nathan Horton matched a franchise record and set a career-best with four assists in Tuesday's 5-3 win over Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa. Florida ended a six-game home losing streak, its longest since a seven-game slide Feb. 26-March 24, 2003.
"We definitely needed this win tonight," Stephen Weiss, who had a goal and an assist, told the Panthers' official team Web site. "It was a good team effort. We didn't have any lapses."
Horton, who has eight assists in his last five games, set up Tanner Glass' first NHL goal in the rookie's 22nd game.
All-Star goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped 43 shots, ending a personal four-start losing streak and winning for just the second time in 11 starts. Vokoun had eight regulation losses, one shootout defeat, one shootout win and a 3.53 goals-against average in his previous 10 games.
"We have one more game before the All-Star break, and we have to make sure we have another 60 minute effort," winger Radek Dvorak said.