Sunrise, FL - With points in each of their last five games (3-0-2) the Edmonton Oilers have little time to rest on the heels of a 3-2 shootout loss in Tampa Bay as they take on the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center tonight in Sunrise.
As is customary on the second night of back-to-back games, the Oilers had a team meeting in the hotel to discuss the finer points of a Panthers squad they have not yet faced this year.
The Panthers lead the Southeast Division, a fact not lost on head coach Tom Renney who has to ensure his crew is well-prepared heading in.
"They work very hard. The six guys we'll face tonight (on defence) have 106 assists between them. Obviously one guy (Brian Campbell) has 43 of them," said Renney. "That's something we have to pay attention to, especially when it comes to getting in on them and not giving them room to skate to make those plays and join the attack."
The forwards on Florida are also dangerous, noted the bench boss.
"They also have some balance. They've got one line that does some scoring but the rest of their lineup scores as well," he continued. "This is a team we need to play a deliberate game with. We've got to go after them, check them hard, try not to allow their defencemen to be a part of the attack and we should be fine."
Up front, the Oilers are expected to go with the same lines as were used last night. On defence, Renney mentioned that Theo Peckham will likely draw in with Andy Sutton sitting out.
"Andy Sutton won't go tonight. He's got some things bugging him that we won't elaborate on. (Peckham) is in and Dubnyk is starting in goal."
The ice last night in Tampa was terrible, to say the least. It certainly affected the game on the ice.
"Stamkos took a shot last night that was a howitzer. It was on edge when he hit it. It hit the ice and then it seemed to go that much harder after that," said Renney.
Due to the ice conditions, it became nearly impossible to make any crisp passes. That is something the team needs to be more mindful of tonight according to Renney.
"Direct pucks to the net, no question," he continued. "The humidity here in Florida is to your advantage if you use it properly but certainly chip it underneath, hard to the net, fire the puck there, go there, stand around and make life miserable for the goaltender because quite honestly those are the types of goals you're going to score."
GOING FOR 30
A win tonight for the Oilers would give them 30 wins on the season. It would be the first time the team has achieved that mark since the 2008-09 season. However, the Oilers aren't looking at the final portion of the campaign with any goals in mind.
"I don't even think we're looking at that. It's a situation where every game we approach differently. If you continue to play the same way you're going to give yourself a chance every night. We're learning on the fly how to win those tight games. It's something we've got to improve upon if we want to be a good team in this league." Gagner said.
"It's tough to say that we're putting goals like a 30-win season or anything like that. We're just trying to collect points in any game we can, whenever we can," Jones began. "It's tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel but this is all going to feed into next year. It's important to get a little bit of chemistry going, get the culture of the organization back to where you want it."
Renney noted that the team's success of late has been encouraging and does bode well for future success down the road.
"Far be it to suggest that we're stellar where we are but the guys have paid attention to the little things they need to do to have success," he said. "What I like about our team is we certainly haven't given up the team game on either side of the puck at this time."
ADDING A D PRESENCE
Renney also talked about the presence of Nick Schultz on defence and what that has added to the team since his trade deadline acquisition.
"Great acquisition I thought. Good work by our crew in recognizing something we really needed," said Renney. "You come out of the Jacques Lemaire school of how to defend and you're probably going to be pretty good.
"Nick's been very solid for us. I like the way he approaches the game as a pro. I like the way he readies himself. In the heat of the battle that's just what you need."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Last 10: Edmonton 4-3-3; Florida 6-3-1
Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season between these inter-conference foes. In fact, it's been nearly 18 months since they've' seen each other. Edmonton won the last meeting 3-2 at Rexall Place on Oct. 10, 2010, despite the Panthers' 28-13 advantage in shots.
Big Story: Despite a five-point lead in the Southeast Division with nine games to go, Florida is not taking its first playoff berth since 2000 for granted. The Panthers will look to pad their standing with a win against Edmonton, a team enjoying the spoiler role of late.
Oilers: Edmonton has been out of the playoff race for some time and was officially eliminated on Thursday, but the Oilers are still playing hard. They have earned points in each of their last five games, including a 6-3 win over playoff-eligible Nashville in Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday. That win kicked off their current four-game road trip with a bang, and their attacking prowess was again on display on Thursday in Tampa Bay. The Oilers fired 36 shots, but only two found their way past ex-Oiler Dwayne Roloson, and Ryan Smyth hit the post in the sixth round of the shootout as the Lightning won 3-2.
"I thought we worked hard," coach Tom Renney said. "I wanted a different outcome for that. I certainly thought we worked hard and did everything we could to claw back and get a point, at least. If we had any luck, we might have had two."
Panthers: After using a five-game win streak to break away from a crowded Southeast, Florida headed to Carolina on Wednesday in search of its fifth win in five games against the 'Canes. But coming off a hard-fought, 2-1 win over Philadelphia the night before, the Panthers came out flat and Eric Staal made them pay. The Carolina captain scored after 46 seconds and, aside from a Tomas Fleischmann goal late in the second, the Hurricanes controlled play for much of the night. Jose Theodore stopped 36 shots but lost 3-1 for his first loss in five starts.
"I thought they came out very hard, and really showed they wanted to win this game," forward Mikael Samuelsson said. "We battled back a little bit, but in the end, they played better than we did. ... Special teams (are) huge, and we were not great today, by no means."
Who's Hot: Stephen Weiss assisted on Fleischmann's goal to continue his four-game points streak. He has two goals and three assists over that span.
Injury Report:Taylor Hall, one of Edmonton's top offensive weapons before he suffered a concussion on March 16, is out indefinitely. Lennart Petrell missed Thursday's game with a strained groin. … For Florida, Jack Skille (shoulder surgery) and Matt Bradley (upper body) are out indefinitely.
Stat Pack: Florida will look for a club-record sixth straight win at BankAtlantic Center. They have outscored opponents 20-8 in their five-game winning streak. Theodore was in net for each of the five, and owns a 1.57 goals-against average over the streak.
Puck Drop : Panthers coach Kevin Dineen told NHL Live on Thursday that despite Florida's lead, nothing is guaranteed.
"We've got a little bit of a lead but, obviously, we've got a fairly respectable opponent, to say the least, in Edmonton. I'm not too sorry they went in and beat that strong Nashville team. Certainly, we'll need to be ready. Right now, it's that cliché of one game at a time, and we've got a handful tomorrow night."