The Edmonton Oilers open a four-game road trip tonight in South Florida where they will take on the Panthers. The Panthers, like the Oilers, have been struggling of late with no wins in their last five games (0-2-3).
Edmonton also has no wins in their last five games (0-4-1) but hope that a return between the pipes by Devan Dubnyk will help spur them on to victory. Dubnyk has not played since a brief stint October 26 in Phoenix, missing the last three due to an ankle injury.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever really missed any time due to injury. I’m excited to get back in tonight,” said Dubnyk.
Also returning is Ryan Smyth, who has been out since October 22 with a groin injury — a span of six games. Smyth will play on a line with Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov.
Another new face to the lineup tonight is defenceman Taylor Fedun, who was recalled when it was ruled that both Justin Schultz (groin/ribs) and Anton Belov (lower body) would be unable to play. It will be Fedun’s first career NHL game.
Fedun came close to cracking the Oilers lineup in the preseason of 2011 but an injury in the team’s second-last preseason game sidelined him for the entire season.
“From that moment on, this is what I’ve been working towards for the last couple years now. So it’s a pretty special feeling to finally be here,” said Fedun.
Fedun has a goal and three assist for four points in 12 games for the Oklahoma City Barons this season. He is eagerly anticipating his first game tonight.
“I think the nerves are definitely going to be present but quite frankly I’d be more worried if they weren’t present. I think that’ll be a good thing to get out there and just play the game. I’m excited.”
Last season, Fedun had eight goals and 27 points in 70 games for OKC but really turned it up a notch in the playoffs where he had three goals and six points in 17 games playing top-pairing minutes. It was then that he felt he was truly back into form.
“When I look back on it, definitely towards the last half of the year and especially in the playoffs I felt I had my legs under me and felt really comfortable out there.”
Fedun will be playing on a pairing with Nick Schultz.
“We’re always going to try and put a guy who’s having his first game in a place to have success but he’s in the fire he just has to jump in. The one thing we do like right now is we’ve got lefties and righties through the back end which I really like. I think with Nick Schultz playing over on the right side and getting Fedun to play on his good side is a good thing.”
Jeff Petry will be paired with Andrew Ference and Ladislav Smid with Philip Larsen.
LOOKING FOR OFFENCE
Coach Eakins has a chat with Sam Gagner (photo by Jeff Nash)
The Oilers have only one goal in their last three games and head coach Dallas Eakins had a heart-to-heart with Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner — three offensive stalwarts — during the morning skate.
“Some reminders, some things that they’re doing very well that I want them to continue to do and some things that we’d like to correct or at least think about. It wasn’t major issues, just reminders,” said Eakins, adding, “The one thing that was very distracting was Eberle’s moustache.”
Eberle has no points in his last five games but remains the team’s leading scorer tied with Nugent-Hopkins at 10 points. Gagner has no points in his only two games this season — both games where the entire team went without a goal.
Big story: Each team enters on a five-game losing streak and in dire need of the positive feelings that come with a winning effort.
Oilers: This is the start of a four-game road trip for Edmonton, which went 2-3-1 on a six-game swing in October. The finale of that journey was a big 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens, but the Oilers haven't tasted victory since.
Preventing goals has been a concern throughout the season, but of late, scoring them has been a problem spot as well. The Oilers were shut out for the second consecutive game when they hosted the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday; their 5-0 defeat followed up a 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs four days earlier.
"It's tough, it was embarrassing, I have no words for it and there are no excuses for us," defenseman Ladislav Smid said. "People talk about injuries and bad luck and stuff, and we can't talk about that anymore. We all have to wake up in here. I don't think there is one person that can be proud of what he did on the ice.
"Collectively we have to wake up and start working as a team and working for each other."
Panthers: Like its opponent, Florida has had to start three different goaltenders already due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Veteran Scott Clemmensen made his first start of the season Saturday against the Washington Capitals and turned in a solid effort, stopping 21 of 23 shots in regulation and overtime in what ultimately ended up a 3-2 loss.
The Panthers fought back from a pair of one-goal deficits against the Capitals to ensure themselves of a point. Jesse Winchester continued to be a success story with his third of the season and Tomas Fleischmann scored on a power play with 2:38 left in regulation.
"What we have to do is believe that if we are going to play well, the wins are going to come," Fleischmann said. "I think we took a good step in the right direction [Saturday]. We played like a team pretty good all 60 minutes, and I think that's how we get two points next game."
Who's hot: Winchester has two goals and an assist in his past four games for the Panthers. His next goal will tie his career high for a season, set in 72 games for the Ottawa Senators in 2010-11.