SUNRISE, FL - It hasn't been all sunshine for the Oilers on their four-game road trip, as the club meets the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, FL, on Thursday.
The Oil opened their roadie with a win in Detroit but are on a two-game slide after losing back-to-back to the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. They'll look to fly off into the sunset in the win column, hoping to keep Florida from registering their first win on home ice this season.
"We started the trip well in Detroit," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan, assessing it from start to finish. "We felt like we were in control of that game. Went into Washington, we didn't start well but we were resilient and we pushed in that game."
Edmonton allowed goals against in the opening six minutes versus the Caps and Lightning, failing to muster a lead in either game.
"I thought Tampa was a little bit of a different monster for us," the Oilers coach continued. "Fatigue came into play a little bit."
Starts have been important this season, with the Orange & Blue going 2-0-0 when leading after the first period and 4-0-0 when up after 40 minutes. The squad is 1-3-1 when trailing after the opening frame and 1-5-1 when down after two.
"We'd obviously like to go home .500," said McLellan.
"For us, that would be a really good trip."
GLOBAL SERIES SIMILARITIES
Both the Oilers and Panthers participated in the NHL Global Series this season, with the Cats having played a doubleheader against the Winnipeg Jets last week. Florida has been on a five-day hiatus since their trip and tonight's contest will be their first since returning to North America.
McLellan alluded to what type of club he could expect from the home side.
"A hungry team that's playing here at home," he started. "A group of forwards that can really make you pay, some D that like to jump up into the rush and a goaltender (Roberto Luongo) that hasn't played much but has outstanding numbers when he does play."
Edmonton traveled to Germany for an exhibition match in Leon Draisaitl's hometown of Cologne, then started the 2018-19 campaign in Gothenburg, Sweden, against the New Jersey Devils. The players can relate to their opponents, enduring the same rigours of the European expedition.
"It's a little bit tough when you're coming off that plane and you have five days to rest and recover," said Cam Talbot, who will get the nod in net on Thursday.
"They'll want to get their legs into it early. They'll be dumping in a lot of pucks and trying to engage early. That's what you need after a long break like that."
With the start on Thursday, Talbot will vie for career win No. 100 in Oilers silks.
"I've had a couple chances at it so far," Talbot said, owning a 2.66 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in his 207-game tenure with the Orange & Blue.
The goalkeeper ranks fifth all-time in wins among the franchise, trailing Grant Fuhr, Bill Ranford, Tommy Salo and Andy Moog in that regard.
"I haven't been able to get it but hopefully I have a good bounce-back game here," the 31-year-old, who stopped 19 of 23 shots against the Caps on Monday, said. "More importantly, we want to pick up a big two points to finish this road trip."
Talbot is 99-85-17 in his four seasons with the Oilers and has a career record of 132-100-22.
There were a few lineup takeaways from Thursday's morning skate in Sunrise.
Alex Chiasson, who was out of the lineup against Tampa Bay on Tuesday due to a minor injury, will slot back in on the second line.
Drake Caggiula skated with Milan Lucic and Ryan Strome on the third unit, while Jesse Puljujarvi took reps on the right side of Zack Kassian and Kyle Brodziak on the fourth line.
That means Jujhar Khaira and Kailer Yamamoto will come out of the lineup among the forwards.
"Just a good fourth line game from those three," said McLellan of his expectations for the fourth line with Puljujarvi on it. "Show up, give us what you have and play the guys you'll line up against."
On the back end, Kevin Gravel took first reps with Matt Benning on the third pairing. That likely means Jason Garrison will sit out for his second game in a row.
On the other side of the ice, Roberto Luongo will make his first start at home this season. The keeper sustained a knee injury in the Panthers' first game of the campaign. He is 1-0-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.
Tonight's game is the first of two meetings between the two teams this season. Their second and final game against each other will be January 10 at Rogers Place.
The Oilers and Panthers split their two game series in 2017-18, with Florida winning 7-5 on Feb. 12 at Rogers Place, while Edmonton had the upper hand on Mar. 17 at BB&T Center, with a 4-2 win.
Connor McDavid led both teams in scoring with five points (2G, 3A) in two games.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers have dropped their last two games after a tough back-to-back against the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and League-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
In all, the Oilers have a solid 8-4-1 record in their last 13 games as they sit tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 17 points, only two points out of top spot in the Pacific Division.
Connor McDavid leads the Oilers with 22 points and 10 goals on the season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is second with 17 points (3G, 14A) and Leon Draisaitl is third with 16 points (9G, 7A). Alex Chiasson has six goals in nine games.
Panthers team scope:
Tonight is Florida's first game since they had a pair of games in Helsinki, Finland against the Winnipeg Jets. The Panthers split those two games, winning and losing by 4-2 margins.
Heading into Europe, the Panthers had a slow start to the season with only three wins in its first nine games. They've only played three games at home and lost all three in games against Columbus, Vancouver and Detroit.
Tonight begins a stretch of 14 games in 24 games for Florida.
Evgenii Dadonov has 13 points in 11 games for the Panthers to lead the team in points. Keith Yandle has 12 points in 11 contests. Dadonov and Mike Hoffman lead the club with six goals apiece.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers have won nine straight games in Florida against the Panthers. The last time the Panthers won was on March 8, 2002 by a score of 5-4. However, the games haven't been easy for Edmonton. Of the nine wins, four were decided by shootout and one was decided by overtime. The five extra time games all happened consecutively, from 2008 through 2015. Oilers have won their last three road meetings against the Panthers in regulation.
McDavid is second in the NHL in points with 22. He's also tied for seventh in goals with 10.
OILERS -Andrej Sekera (achilles) is out; Alex Chiasson (undisclosed) is day-to-day
PANTHERS - Jamie McGinn (back) is on IR; Micheal Haley (illness) is on IR; Derek MacKenzie (upper body) is on IR; Mark Pysyk (upper body) is day-to-day; Jared McCann (upper body) is day-to-day