EDMONTON, AB - In come the Florida Panthers, winners of three of heir last five games, fresh off a 5-2 loss in Calgary last night. Up for grabs is another two points as Edmonton (55 points) looks to keep up with the Anaheim Ducks, who top the Pacific Division with 59.
"Their backend, I think, leads the League in shots on goal for d-men. There's a huge challenge there," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "They generate a lot from the top and have the ability to create chances off of it, and their forwards approach the game very workmanlike. There's nothing easy about their game. They've got some pace, they play hard, aggressive forecheck, and their penalty kill has been exceptional."
As the grind of the season wears on, the Oilers have shown, as of late, an ability to win tight games. Seven of the Oilers last nine wins have been decided by just one goal. Edmonton is also riding a three-game win streak, and has at least a point in 11 of their last 14 contests.
"I think we're settled in now. The last three games were huge for us," said Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl.
As they look to maintain their momentum, the Oilers have a lot to play for moving forward. Oilers winger Jordan Eberle has been with the club, in the NHL, since 2010 and he can't remember a more fun time this late in the season.
"It's exciting. It's the most fun I've had in the NHL. You actually enjoy looking at the standings and having the chance to be in that spot with the games we have left. It's definitely made going out in Edmonton a lot more enjoyable."
CLOSING IN ON 100
Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are closing in on a career milestone, one they could achieve together. The two, playing on the same line, could connect for their 100th career NHL points.
"It's rewarding and nice to have that little milestone," said Draisaitl. "I think both of us, we obviously hope there's many more to come."
Draisaitl has 99 in 155 games, while McDavid has 99 in 91.
"It would be nice, obviously, if we could get it on the same goal. But that's not where our head is right now," Draisaitl said. "We want to win this game, it's a big game for us and that's what we're worried about."
TALBOT STARTS AGAIN
The term "workhorse" is accurate when speaking of Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot. The netminder leads the league in starts (41), saves (1,115) and minutes played (2,458:48). He is second in wins with 23.
The Oilers use Talbot as much as possible, and likely won't change those tactics much moving forward.
"We feel like we have a schedule, other than the back-to-backs coming up, that allows us to do that, providing he maintains his health and level of play," said McLellan. "We've got an All-Star break, we come back for four and then we have another five-day break. Then, it changes a little bit. We're not laying it out week-by-week or month-by-month, we're looking at it in one or two-game segments."
Talbot gets the nod tonight against Florida for his 42nd start. He shows no signs of breaking down and Edmonton is confident in riding their number one.
"He wants to play every night," said McLellan. "There's no sign of him coming in and 'I'm tired, I'm sick, I'm sore' both physically and mentally, so we're comfortable with it right now."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (24-15-7) vs. PANTHERS (20-18-8)
TV: 7:30 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight's game is the first of two meetings between the Oilers and Panthers this season and the lone game in Edmonton. The next time these teams will meet is on February 22nd in Florida.
The last time these teams met was on January 18th, 2016 in Florida, when the Oilers defeated the Panthers by a score of 4-2. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Benoit Pouliot all recorded points in the win.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers come into this game having won each of their last three games, and three of their four on this six-game homestand so far.
Forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are both within a single point of registering their 100th career NHL point.
Draisaitl scored a goal, on a McDavid pass, against Arizona on Jan. 16.
Both players are now at 99 career NHL points, a single point from 100. McDavid has 30 goals and 69 assists in 91 games, while Draisaitl has 38 goals and 61 assists in 154 games.
McDavid has 16 multi-point games this season, ranking first in the NHL, one more than Sidney Crosby (PIT). Draisaitl now has eight multi-point games, and ranks 30th overall.
McDavid continues to lead the NHL scoring race. He now has 51 points (14G, 37A) in 46 games. He has a one point lead on Sidney Crosby (PIT). McDavid has led the league in scoring at some point in all four months of the 2016-17 season.
McDavid also leads all Oilers forwards in average time on ice (21:14) and ranks fifth in the NHL. His season high (26:43) came on Dec. 31 against Vancouver. The native of Newmarket turned 20 years old on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.
Rookie forward Jujhar Khaira became the most recent Oilers to score his first career NHL goal, with a marker on Jan. 17 vs. Arizona. Khaira became the fifth Oiler to score his first career NHL goal this season, and the fourth player to get his first NHL goal at Rogers Place.
· Jesse Puljujarvi - Oct. 12 vs. Calgary
· Anton Slepyshev - Oct. 18 vs. Carolina
· Drake Caggiula - Dec. 3 vs. Anaheim
· Matt Benning - Jan. 7 at New Jersey
Panthers team scope:
The Panthers have been right around the .500 mark for the entire season. The most games Florida has been above .500 this year was three, which was achieved after a win against Columbus on January 14. The Panthers then dropped last night's game in Calgary and currently sit two games over .500. The most games below .500 the Panthers have been all year is only one on two separate occasions early in the campaign.
Leading the way for the Panthers on the scoresheet this season is a couple of unfamiliar names. Vincent Trochek is tops with 16 goals and 31 points and Jonathan Marchessault is second in goals with 13 and tied for second in points with 27. Trochek came into his own last year with 25 goals and 53 points in 76 games. This is Marchessault's first full NHL season. Last year he played 45 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning and had seven goals and 18 points.
Marchessault is tied in points with a couple of players who are more household names in Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr. Jagr has played 46 games while Barkov has played only 36.
On the blueline, Keith Yandle is leading the way for the Panthers with 22 points in 46 games.