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At the Rink: Oilers at Panthers

by Alain Poupart /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Edmonton Oilers will be looking for that elusive road victory Saturday night when they face the Florida Panthers at BB&T?Center, and they also will be looking for some scoring from somebody other than red-hot Benoit Pouliot.

Pouliot has scored Edmonton’s past five goals over the past three games, including a 4-2 loss against Florida on Sunday, and road losses against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Since returning after missing 16 games because of a broken foot, Pouliot has seven goals in seven games. He has six goals during a four-game goal streak.

“Sometimes that happens when a player gets injured and gets some time from the game and mentally he’s refreshed,”???Oilers coach Todd Nelson said after the morning skate. “He’s playing a solid two-way game, but the most noticeable thing is that he’s hungry around the net and he’s going to the net hard and he’s creating traffic. But also he’s following his shot to the net or if there’s a shot to the net he goes to the net and stops and tries to bang in rebounds, and he’s really tenacious on the puck.”

Despite Pouliot’s offense this week, the Oilers remained winless in their past 14 road games since a 3-1 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Nov. 9.

Eleven of those 14 losses have been by one goal, including the 3-2 decision at Tampa Bay on Thursday. Edmonton (10-26-9) has lost three in a row overall and has the fewest points in the NHL???with 29.

The Oilers have won their past five games at BB&T???Center, dating back to the 2002-03 season. The last four games have gone beyond regulation, with the Oilers winning three in a shootout, and winning last season 4-3 on a power-play goal by Mark Arcubello.

Last Sunday, four different players scored and 10 players had points for Florida in its 4-2 victory at Rexall Place.

“We played them last week and it was a real good hockey game,”???Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “They’ve got speed, they’ve got talent, and we’ve got to be aware of them.”

Since beating the Oilers, the Panthers (20-13-9, ninth in the Eastern Conference standings)???have lost two in a row in regulation for the first time since Nov. 6-8.

Florida ended a six-game road trip Tuesday with an 8-2 loss against the Winnipeg Jets before losing 4-2 against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

The Panthers are 5-4-1 in their past 10 games. Every team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings, except for the Pittsburgh Penguins, has earned at least 14 points in its past 10 games.

“Every game you look at the standings, you look at the teams ahead of you and your main focus is just to keep climbing,”???forward Scottie Upshall said. “It’s tough if you lose a couple of games like we have, you kind of fall out. It’s important to stay consistent and try to find ways to get those points. You always just look at that next team ahead of you. When those teams win, you’ve just got to keep bringing it.”

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot - Derek Roy - Nail Yakupov

Matt Fraser - Anton Lander - Teddy Purcell

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer

Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Nikita Nikitin - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Keith Aulie

Injured: Tyler Pitlick (upper body)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Jimmy Hayes

Sean Bergenheim - Dave Bolland - Tomas Fleischmann

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Scottie Upshall

Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched:?????????Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck

Injuries: Shawn Thornton (groin)

Status report: Florida will be going with the same lineup. It will be fourth consecutive healthy scratch for Trocheck, and the third for Pirri. Thornton was among the players who took part in an optional morning skate but he remains on injured reserve and will miss an 18th consecutive game. ... Fasth will be making only his second start in the past 10 games, but Nelson said he would evaluate his goaltending situation on a game-by-game basis if Fasth has a strong performance Saturday.

Who’s hot:?????????Barkov has a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist) sandwiched around two games he sat out because of the flu. ... Huberdeau has seven points (three goals, four assists)?????????in the past five games. ... Hall had one goal and five assists in the past six games.

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