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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers vs. Panthers

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers


 News, notes and line combinations from Saturday's Oilers practice at the Royal Glenora Club, including reaction from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being named to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.




 EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers will not skate on Sunday morning, ahead of their game against the Florida Panthers at Rexall Place. They did however skate on Saturday at the Royal Glenora Club. The lines were unchanged from their 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

The Panthers will face the Oilers, following a 6-5 win against the Flames in Calgary on Friday night.

“Both teams put up a high number of goals,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “We’ll just have to take a look, see how those goals were generated and see what we have to work on.”

Florida has a record of 19-11-9 this season. This is the first of two meetings between these two teams this year, with the second coming in a week on Saturday January 17.


The Oilers should be excited about their 5-2 win over Chicago, one of the best teams in the league. The Oilers are also 3-1-2 in their last six games, with the wins coming against Chicago, Los Angeles and the Islanders. Those are three quality opponents.

“Right now, every game is big for us,” Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry said. “We have a lot to prove as individuals and a lot to prove as a team. To go out and have a game like we did against Chicago is great, but we’ve got to know what we did yesterday and bring it again tomorrow.”

Benoit Pouliot, who scored against Chicago, says the wins and results have brought renewed energy and positivity.

“It’s awesome,” Pouliot said. “You can feel it in the room and on the ice. Positive, the guys are coming together and it’s just fun to be a part of right now. We’re playing very well, we just can’t be happy about four or five games. We’ve just got to keep it going until the end of the year and you never know what can happen. If we can get a good push and finish the year off on a positive note, who knows what is going to happen.”

Petry agrees that the vibes in the room have been much more positive lately.

“It’s a good environment to be around right now,” Petry said. “The team is playing well and I think we’re all excited to come to the rink everyday. I think the style of play we’re playing and the way we’re playing right now is great and we need to continue that moving forward.”


Pouliot was admittedly frustrated with himself after a late-game spearing penalty gave Detroit two power play goals, in what was a tied game. That was on Tuesday, and since then the Oilers bounced back against the Blackhawks. Not only did the team respond well, but Pouliot had a strong game following that disappointing finish against the Red Wings.

“I thought everybody played well but I thought Benoit had a really strong game,” Nelson said. “Once again, he’s a player that’s dependable, a good two-way guy and he’s very smart with his decisions.”

Pouliot has an aggressive forecheck and is gritty enough to crash the net and cause havoc. That can sometimes lead to penalties, but it’s something that Nelson doesn’t want his winger worrying about.

“It’s a fine line, but you have to play this game hard and aggressive,” Nelson said. “That’s our philosophy. Things happen sometimes, but if you’re trying to do the right thing then good things will happen. Players can’t be thinking about anything negative with that, they just have to play the system.”

Pouliot scored against the Blackhawks, redeeming himself for his gaffe against Detroit.

-- Chris Wescott,



PANTHERS (19-11-9) at OILERS (10-23-9)


Season series:
The Edmonton Oilers swept the two-game season series with the Florida Panthers last season. Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had five assists.

Panthers team scope:
Florida has won three of four to open its six-game road trip, including a 6-5 victory against the Calgary Flames on Friday. As a result of their recent hot stretch, the Panthers are now in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild-card race with multiple games in hand on every other team in the hunt. The Panthers got good news Saturday when it was announced goalie Roberto Luongo was selected to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, his fifth, and defenseman Aaron Ekblad was named to the 2015 NHL Honda All-Star Skills Competition. Although most players skated Saturday, Aleksander Barkov (illness) and Dmitry Kulikov (flu) did not. Coach Gerard Gallant said he did not know if the two forwards would be able to play Sunday.

Oilers team scope:
Prior to its homestand, Edmonton had not won in regulation in nearly a month, a span of 12 games, but so far the Oilers have been impressive in what initially looked to be a brutal four games. The Oilers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Friday. They opened the homestand with a 5-2 win against the New York Islanders before losing 4-2 to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Edmonton remains at the bottom of the NHL standings, but winning two of its past three games has improved the mood at practice. "It's so fun to win and it does make you forget about what place you are in the standings for a couple of days," forward Taylor Hall said at practice Saturday. "For us, we need that. We need to be a relaxed group." Nugent-Hopkins found out Saturday afternoon that he would represent Edmonton at the All-Star Game.

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