SUNRISE, FL - For the second time in less than a week, the Oilers will do battle with the Florida Panthers, but tonight’s rematch shifts venues to the BB&T Center in Sunrise as Edmonton will look to avenge their 4-2 defeat last Sunday at Rexall Place.
It’s the second of back-to-back games in the Sunshine State as the Oilers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Ondrej Palat’s two third period goals allowed the home team to rally for a 3-2 decision. Edmonton played a strong puck possession game in Tampa, outshooting the Lightning 32-19. They’ll be looking for more of the same against the Panthers, but with a winning result.
“We want to try to push the pace, and in order to do that we need quick transition getting up ice,” Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson said following today's morning skate. “The game in Tampa Bay, we had success getting pucks in deep and establishing our forecheck. We had more zone time than we’ve had in quite some time. We need to keep it simple. More or less, we want to keep the puck out of our end as much as possible and try to play in theirs.”
REMATCH ON TAP
The Oilers fell behind 1-0 after 20 minutes during last Sunday’s first encounter with the Panthers, traded goals in the middle frame and were outscored 2-1 in the third en route to the 4-2 loss. Roberto Luongo, who gets the nod for Florida again tonight, made 33 saves, while Tomas Kopecky scored the game-winner.
“We made it interesting late, but they’ve got a good team over there that plays tight as a unit,” Oilers winger Jordan Eberle said. “The one big thing for them is they capitalize on your turnovers, because they attack quick, so we have to make sure we’re doing the right things with the puck. We need to play a similar game as we did against Tampa Bay, but bury a few more chances.”
“They play a similar style to how we want to play,” Nelson added. “They have skill, but they’re a hard-working group that pays the price to be over top of the puck. And if there’s any kind of turnover, they work hard to get back. It’s a hard-working group over there, so we’re going to have to match that work ethic.”
FASTH GETS THE CALL
The lone lineup change for the Oilers tonight comes between the pipes as Viktor Fasth gets the start after Ben Scrivens played the previous four games. Fasth made 37 saves in his last appearance on Jan. 6, which resulted in a 4-2 defeat against the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit scored an empty-netter in the win as Fasth stopped 37 of 40 shots.
“The same effort that we saw when he played against Detroit,” Nelson said when asked of expectations for the Swedish puck-stopper. “I thought he played a really strong game and he gave us a chance to win. That’s what we’re looking for from him tonight.”
KEEP STREAKING, BENOIT
The Oilers are hoping Benoit Pouliot continues to stay hot, as the big winger has found the back of the net seven times in the last seven games, including six goals in the last four games and back-to-back two-goal performances. Most of his recent tallies haven’t been pretty either, as he’s working his way to the net for scoring opportunities.
“He’s playing a solid two-way game,” Nelson said. “The most noticeable thing is he's hungry around the net, going to the net hard and creating traffic. Also, he's following his shot to the net. Or, if there’s a shot going to the net, he’s going there trying to bang in rebounds and he’s really tenacious on the puck.”
Pouliot missed a month and a half of action after breaking his foot against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 21, but he’s been red-hot in his seven games since returning to the lineup.
“The first two or three games back, I was just trying to catch my breath and get my legs going,” Pouliot said. “But lately it’s been good. I’ve been back to my routine and back to feeling good about my game. The chances I’ve been getting lately are going in.”
-- Ryan Frankson, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (10-26-9) at PANTHERS (20-13-9)
TV: SN1, FS-F
Season series: Roberto Luongo made 31 saves and 10 Florida Panthers had at least one point when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 at Rexall Place on Jan. 11.
Oilers team scope: The past five goals for Edmonton have been scored by forward Benoit Pouliot, who has six in his past four games. The Oilers have lost three in a row, including 3-2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday; they let a 2-1 lead entering the third period slip away. The 19 shots allowed were a season low. "We're on the right path," Pouliot said. "If we play like we did [Thursday], especially [Saturday] here in Florida, we'll have a big, big chance to win that game." Forward Boyd Gordon, the 17th pick in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Washington Capitals, will play in his 600th game. "It's a fantastic accomplishment," interim coach Todd Nelson said. "[Gordon] has carved out a nice career for himself."
Panthers team scope: Luongo has seen plenty of the Oilers during his career, particularly during his seven-plus seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, and is 27-12-3 in 44 games against them after the win Sunday. Forward Scottie Upshall, limited to one assist in his past nine games, has eight goals in 15 games against the Oilers. Florida comes off a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche when rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad scored his sixth goal. Ekblad has 25 points, one behind forward Nick Bjugstad for the Panthers scoring lead. Indications from practice Friday were the lines will remain the same, with forwards Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck and Shawn Thornton skating together. Pirri has been scratched the past two games, Trocheck the past three. Thornton is getting back into game shape after missing 17 games with a groin injury.