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Panthers try to close in on playoff berth

by Davis Harper
OILERS (29-36-9) at PANTHERS (36-24-13)

TV: SNET-West (HD), FS-Florida (HD)

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.

Team Scope:

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," forwardMikael 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."

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