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Oilers go for season sweep of Panthers

by Matthew Mankiewich

PANTHERS (6-12-4) vs. OILERS (6-15-2)


Last 10: Florida 3-5-2, Edmonton 3-7-0

Season series: This will complete the interconference home-and-home series. The Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 5 when rookie forward Mark Arcobello scored his second goal of the game 1:55 into overtime.

Big story: Each team has six wins, tying them for second-fewest in the NHL, but both have won two in a row. The Panthers come to Edmonton after a 3-2 shootout win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. The Oilers featured a rare combination of overwhelming offense and stellar goaltending from Devan Dubnyk in a 7-0 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place on Tuesday. David Perron had two goals and a season-high four points in the victory.

Team Scope:

Panthers: The Panthers don't visit Vancouver often, but when they do, they lose. That was the mantra for 10 games spread over 19 years; their last win in Vancouver came on March 7, 1994, at Pacific Coliseum during Florida's first NHL season. The Panthers had been 0-5-5 in Vancouver since then and had never won in Rogers Arena.

To end the drought, the Panthers turned to someone who had enjoyed some success in Vancouver. Goalie Tim Thomas, who shut out the Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final to give the Boston Bruins their first championship since 1972, made 27 saves in 65 minutes of play and denied all three shootout attempts.

"Now we've all won here," Thomas told the Panthers' website, deflecting questions about his own success to focus on what it all meant for his team.

"I don't think having it be here is a factor," Thomas said. "It's more that we'd won two of three coming into this, we'd been putting some good efforts together, playing some quality teams, getting some points and just to be able to keep it going to make it three in four and win back-to-back games for the first time this year was huge. So, it's not so much about being here as that was a result we needed."

Oilers: Coach Dallas Eakins knows not to mess with success. Therefore, at practice Wednesday, when questions came about his four lines in the aftermath of the blowout victory against Columbus, status quo was his way to go.

"I don't like fooling around with them. When you've got a mix that can win the game, I don't know how you change it," he said. "Our lineup did change due to injury but it seemed like an even trade. [Philip] Larsen's a right-handed shot, likes to jump in the play, had been playing extremely well for us, breaking out the puck, getting up the ice. He couldn't go, and Schultzie (Nick Schultz) came back from an injury.

"But with the other lines I really hesitate on it. If you go and you mix them up and then it goes south on you, you're instantly beating yourself up. So I'm always very hesitant. I think it's important to reward the group and keep it going for as long as you can."

Who's hot: Panthers forward Shawn Matthias earned First Star honors Tuesday by scoring the tying goal 8:34 into the third period. Brian Campbell was held off the board in 32 minutes of ice time Tuesday but still has five points in his past five games. Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored the shootout winner Tuesday, has two real-time goals in his past three games. … Perron has three goals in his past two games, while Jordan Eberle has also scored in each of his past two. Ales Hemsky has a three-game point streak. Ryan Smyth's power-play goal against Columbus brought him within two of Wayne Gretzky and three of Glenn Anderson for the franchise record in career extra-man goals.

Injury report: Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver (illness) is questionable for Thursday, as is Scott Gomez (groin) who has missed seven games. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) is off injured reserve but has yet to play this season. … For the Oilers, Larsen was held out of the game on Tuesday with an undisclosed injury, while goalie Richard Bachman (lower body) has been out of the lineup since Nov. 2. Forward Tyler Pitlick (knee) has been taken off IR.

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