"Lots of games coming up," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "I'm excited about it. I think that we're a team that needs a busy schedule. I think we've had probably more practices than anybody in the NHL in the first month of the season. I know the guys are excited about just being able to play, not overthink things and get back into a typical schedule."
The Panthers (3-5-2) are coming off a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets in the finale of the 2018 NHL Global Series in Helsinki, Finland on Friday. In that game, the team scored a season-high three goals on the power play and Roberto Luongo made 32 saves in his return to the lineup.
Fresh off his first win of the season, Luongo, 39, will draw back in against the Oilers.
"I give Roberto a lot of credit there," Boughner said of Luongo, who missed 10 games after suffering a knee injury in the season opener on Oct. 6 in Tampa. "The easy thing would have been to give himself four or five more days, come back and be prepared for tonight's game. Not that he pushed it early and he wasn't ready, but he knew the team needed him. I think that was a bit of an inspiration game for us, and Louie was a big part of that."
As for the power play, the Panthers have seemingly found their footing after starting the season 0-for-13 with the man advantage. Over their last four games, the team has gone 6-for-19 with the extra attacker (31.6 percent), owning the league's third-ranked power play since Oct. 24.
A big reason for that success on the power play has been Keith Yandle, who quarterbacks the club's top unit. The 32-year-old defenseman has registered a goal with the man advantage in each of the last two games and leads Florida's defensemen with 12 total points this season.
"I think we simplified it a little bit more," Boughner said of the power play. "I think Yands has a bit more of a shooting mentality up there instead of distributing it all the time. I think that's a good look. Yands is a quarterback on that [unit]… He takes a lot of responsibility when it's going and when it's not going. I think he's done a great job of stepping up."
Mike Hoffman, another one of Florida's power-play specialists, enters tonight's game riding a career-high nine-game point streak. If the 28-year-old winger notches a point against Edmonton, he will become just the fourth player ever to register a 10-game point streak in franchise history.
"I feel much, much better now," said Hoffman, who is tied for the team lead in goals (6) and power-play goals (3). "The first few games I probably didn't play my best hockey, but as of late I feel a lot better. I feel a little more comfortable. I'm getting myself in a little groove, a little routine. Hopefully I can help this team win a few more games."
The Oilers (8-6-1) are coming off a 5-2 loss in Tampa on Tuesday, but have won five of their last eight games overall. Against the Lightning, Connor McDavid, last season's Art Ross Trophy winner, was held of the scoresheet for just the second time this season. That said, the 21-year-old superstar is still tied for second in the league scoring with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists).
"They're a quick team," said Panthers defenseman Alexander Petrovic, who leads the team in hits (37) and blocked shots (23). "I think, for us, it's just play in our D-zone just like we've been doing from the beginning of the year. At the end of the day, you've always got to see what their tendencies are and whatnot, and you've got to keep an eye out for McDavid. For us, we've got fast, skilled players as well."
An Edmonton native, Petrovic said he always enjoys playing against his hometown team.
"A lot of people from back home are watching the games," he said. "It's good to see. I'll probably get a couple more extra texts after the game. It'll be an exciting game. It's a big game for us. We've got some games in hand that we've got to take care of. It starts tonight."
-- Evgenii Dadonov enters tonight's game riding a career-high eight-game point streak (5-5-10). The 29-year-old winger leads the Panthers with 13 points (6-7-13) in 11 games this season.
-- Aaron Ekblad has registered seven points (1-6-7) over seven career games against Edmonton. The 22-year-old defenseman also ranks second on the Panthers in ice time this season, skating an average of 22:33 per game.
-- Jonathan Huberdeau enters tonight's game with eight points (1-7-8) over his last seven games. He also leads all Panthers forwards with seven assists this season.
-- Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad has tallied five points (1-4-5) over his last six games.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Roberto Luongo (1-0-0, 1.31 GAA, .957 SV%) vs. Cam Talbot (5-5-1, 2.93 GAA, .889 SV%)
Luongo will make his second straight start after stopping 32 of 34 shots to pick up his first win of the season against the Jets on Friday. He has allowed two goals on 46 shots so far this season, with one coming on the power play. In his career against the Oilers, Luongo has gone 27-13-5 with fa 2.30 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and four shutouts.
Talbot, 31, is winless in his last two starts, allowing eight total goals in losses to Minnesota and Washington. In his career against the Panthers, he is 5-2-0 with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Talbot has allowed fewer than two goals in five of his 11 starts this season.
Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Mike Hoffman
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Frank Vatrano
Denis Malgin - Jared McCann - Nick Bjugstad
Troy Brouwer - Juho Lammikko - Colton Sceviour
Mike Matheson - Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle - Alexander Petrovic
Bogdan Kiselevich - MacKenzie Weegar
Scratches: Mark Pysyk, Maxim Mamin
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Jamie McGinn (back)
- Nov. 5: G Michael Hutchison was loaned to Springfield (AHL).
- Nov. 1: G Roberto Luongo was activated form the injured reserve list.
- Oct. 26: C Derek MacKenzie was placed on the injured reserve list.
- Oct. 13: D Jacob MacDonald was loaned to Springfield (AHL).
BITE OF BB&T CENTER
- Jumbo Pretzels for $7 in stands 108, 115, 129, 307, 328, and portable food carts.
- Hockey N' Heels
- $5 Beer Thursdays
- Non-Perishable Food Drive
- Text 2 Give
HOW TO WATCH
When: Thursday, Nov. 8, 7:00 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
TV: Fox Sports Florida
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)