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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers vs. Panthers

The Oilers entertain the Florida Panthers in a matinee tilt on Sunday

by Paul Gazzola /

The Oilers host the Florida Panthers at Rogers Place on Sunday.

You can watch the game on Sportsnet West or listen on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game vs FLA 10.26.19


News and notes from Saturday's Oilers practice at Rogers Place, including expected lines for Sunday's date against Florida.



EDMONTON, AB - Afternoon hockey, anyone?

After clawing their way back from a 3-1 deficit against the Washington Capitals to churn out a 4-3 overtime victory on Thursday, the Oilers will have their hands full with Aleksander Barkov and the Florida Panthers on Sunday in what will be the Orange & Blue's second matinee tilt of the '19-20 season.

The home side is looking to build on their come-from-behind win and take some momentum into their upcoming three-game road trip.

"I know they'll be prepared very well," said Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett. 

"I know Joel (Quenneville) very well. It'll be a tough game but another good test for us."


Edmonton welcomes the Cats to Rogers Place but it's been the Oilers who have shown the ability to scratch and claw out points this season, as evidenced by Thursday's perseverance against Washington.

The Oilers entered that contest 0-2-0 when trailing after 40 minutes - heading into the third period down 3-1 - but managed to dig deep enough to tie it late then get the win in OT thanks to the magic of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The resilience the Oilers have shown early in the schedule is uplifting for the club, who have watched their self-belief increase with each deficit erased.

"More than anything, I think we just have a group with the mentality that they just want to stay with it," Tippett said on Saturday. 

"It just builds confidence in your group."

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has one goal and six points in 11 games, articulated just how impactful that sense of belief can be.

"We've come back I think six or seven times this year," he started. 

"When you start doing that, you start getting confidence in yourself. We were down 3-1 here going into the third (versus Washington) and we were still pretty up in here. We knew we had to push a little bit more but we stayed confident, stayed upbeat and everyone went out there and did their job."

One facet that has contributed to Edmonton's capability to come back has been goaltending. 

Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith have done their job from the blue paint, providing the squad with save after save to keep the dream alive.

"That's a huge part of it too," Nugent-Hopkins continued. "When you're trying to claw your way back into a game, you still need some stops. Mikko was huge making a big 2-on-1 stop and a couple of others. You definitely need that and that kind of boosts you."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Alex Chiasson 10.26.19

There's never been any cause for concern when down, as the Oilers have trusted the process to achieve victories.

"For the most part, our players have been pretty good at just staying the course," said Tippett. 

"The other night, we thought we were playing alright down 3-1 after the second period, we just talked about, 'Let's get the next one and see where it goes.' We were opportunistic.

"Good teams have confidence in themselves."


In this copycat league known as the NHL, sometimes players get compared to one another.

As is the case with Draisaitl and Barkov of the Panthers, two forwards that play a like-minded game. 

The similarities are apparent: Both skaters are purveyors of great passes, both can pick their spots when they snipe, both can cover the length of the ice in two-way fashion and both broke out big last season - with Draisaitl putting up 105 points and Barkov getting 96.

The Panthers captain has yet to notch a goal this season but still leads his team with 12 assists, producing four helpers in Thursday's 6-5 shootout loss to the Flames.

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Dave Tippett 10.26.19

"He's a heck of a player," said Tippett of Barkov. "He's one of those guys where you don't get to see him or don't get to watch him enough but when you watch him on tape, he jumps out at you. 

"He's a dominant player in this League."

For Alex Chiasson, there is one difference between the two.

"They're big guys, they're good down low," Chiasson said.

"Barkov, just from watching, it's almost like he has the skill to make the next play almost a guaranteed goal. So does Leon, but I think Leon's more aggressive with the belief in his shot."


The Oilers placed Josh Archibald on Injured Reserve on Friday and recalled Gaëtan Haas from Bakersfield as a result. 

Archibald's injury grants an opportunity for Tomas Jurco, who skated with Markus Granlund and Sam Gagner on Saturday, to return to the lineup.

"He had a good training camp, made some good plays and made some plays that really stood out," Tippett said of Jurco. 

"His game has gone a little quiet. I know he's anxious to get back in there. Hopefully, he can take advantage of the opportunity."

In goal, Smith took shots from the starter's crease and could get the start against Florida.

Lines at this Saturday's practice appeared as follows:

Draisaitl - McDavid - Kassian
Chiasson - Nugent-Hopkins - Neal
Khaira - Sheahan - P. Russell
Jurco - Granlund - Gagner

Nurse - Bear
Klefbom - K. Russell
Manning - Benning


-- Paul Gazzola,


OILERS (8-2-1) vs. PANTHERS (4-2-4)

TV: 2:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet West


This is the first of two meetings between the Oilers and Panthers this season. The two clubs will reconvene in yet another matinee tune-up on Saturday, Feb. 15 at BB&T Center.

Edmonton gutted out a 4-3 SO victory against the Panthers at home in their first clash last season but was dealt a 4-1 blow when the two sides faced each other later in the schedule.

McDavid led the Oilers with two goals and two assists in two games versus FLA in '18-19. For the Cats, Mike Hoffman had three assists against Edmonton last season.

Oilers team scope:

A 3-1 deficit entering the third period versus Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals was not enough to deter the Oilers from coming out on top with a 4-3 OT victory in their last outing. 

With the win, Edmonton nipped their two-game losing slide - which saw the club drop decisions to the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild - and improved their record to 8-2-1 on the year, sitting atop the Pacific Division standings heading into Saturday's round of NHL games with 17 points.

McDavid is one point from the League-lead with 20 on the season (6G, 14A), while Draisaitl is right behind him with 19 points (8G, 11A).

Panthers team scope:

The Panthers kicked off a four-game road swing with a 6-5 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday, in a game that saw Barkov net four assists. 

Florida is in the mix in the Eastern Conference, nestling in the first wild card position with 12 points prior to Saturday's NHL games. The club is 2-1-3 on the road this year and owns a goal-differential of minus-four.

By the Numbers:

Edmonton's power play continues to hover in the 30 percent range, converting at a 33.3 percent rate. ... James Neal has six power-play goals this year, which is tied for first in the NHL. ... Connor McDavid has nine power-play points this season, which is the most in the League. ... Leon Draisaitl is 11th in the League with 40 shots on goal. ... Mike Smith is 2-0-0 at Rogers Place this season with a 3.50 GAA and .892 SV%.

Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau lead the Panthers in points with 12 each. ... Huberdeau, Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov top the club in goals with five apiece while Barkov is still looking for his first of the season. ... Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is 3-2-3 this campaign and sporting a 3.88 goals-against average and .869 save percentage. ... The Panthers average 34.8 shots per game, which was second-most in the League heading into Saturday's action.

Injury Report:

OILERS - Adam Larsson (fibula) is on IR; Josh Archibald (foot fracture) is on IR; Joakim Nygard (ribs) is on IR; Joel Persson (concussion) is day-to-day.

PANTHERS - Vincent Trochek (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Mike Matheson (undisclosed) is day-to-day.

-- Paul Gazzola,

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