Its a whole new year and the Edmonton Oilers get to kick off 2007 against an unfamiliar opponent – the Florida Panthers.
The last time the Oilers and Panthers met in a regular season game was back on January 13, 2004. On that night, Fernando Pisani scored the game-winning goal as Edmonton defeated Florida 4-2.
Although the two teams are worlds apart, they are in very similar predicaments in their respective conferences. The Panthers are in 14th spot in the Eastern Conference but only five points out of a playoff spot and seven points out of sixth place.
The Oilers are no strangers to log jams as theyve been part of a bizarre struggle for top spot in the Northwest Division over the past month. At times only one single point has separated first from fifth. Right now, the Oilers are in fifth in the division but are still only four points out of top spot.
The Panthers have picked up points in six of their last seven games for their best winning stretch of the season.
TONIGHT'S GAME ON PPV:
Tonight's game will be available on pay-per-view via Shaw Digital Cable, Star Choice and Bell Expressvu. If you don't have any of those three service providers you can still catch tonight's game at one of four participating Cineplex Odeon, Galaxy or Silver City theatres.
OILERS TO WATCH: Ryan Smyth
returned to action on Thursday after missing 10 games with a broken thumb and contributed in a big way. Despite being limited in his mobility, he scored a power play goal in his first game back and set up a screen for another en route to being named second star of the game. Smyth added two goals on Sunday in Calgary and has three goals and one assist for four points in three games since coming back This is the third full season in the NHL for both Jarret Stoll and Fernando Pisani but both Oilers have only ever played the Florida Panthers once before in their careers. Pisani has played 229 career NHL games while Stoll has played 192 total games.
PANTHERS TO WATCH: Edmonton native Jay Bouwmeester has already matched his career-high total of five goals set last season. He is also second on the Panthers in plus/minus at +7 Leading the way in that category for the Panthers is Nathan Horton at +12. Horton is also second on the Panthers with 14 goals and 32 points Olli Jokinen remains the offensive leader for the club with 40 points through his first 41 games and 15 goals. Last season, Jokinen had 38 goals.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out; Florida – Todd Bertuzzi (back) is out. Stephen Weiss (shoulder) is out.
FAST FACTS: Leading up to Christmas, the Panthers had a three-game winning streak going. During the streak, they gave up the games first goal each time but found a way to come back and win 28 of Floridas 41 games this season have been decided by two goals or less. 16 of those games have been decided by a single goal with the Panthers holding a 5-4-7 record At 19.1%, Floridas power play is seventh-best in the NHL Only 12 of Jokinens 40 points have come on the road.