There was good news Wednesday in Edmonton.
The Panthers’ injured players, including David Booth, Cory Stillman and Nathan Horton, all participated in what coach Peter DeBoer called a “pretty much full contact” practice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.
But that doesn’t mean any of them will be in the lineup Thursday when the streaking Panthers meet the Oilers at Rexall Place.
Booth (shoulder), Stillman (concussion), Horton (leg), Richard Zednik (arm) and Cory Murphy (shoulder) are “doubtful,” according to DeBoer, for games Thursday in Edmonton and Friday in Calgary.
“I don’t think any of them are ready to play Thursday,” said DeBoer after Wednesday’s practice. “You know, they’re all kind of in the same group. They’re all close, nobody is longterm, but I would say they’re doubtful for the two games in Calgary and Edmonton. The earliest we might get any of them is Sunday in Vancouver.”
What it means is the Panthers will go with the same roster that Monday beat Ottawa 4-3 in overtime, including Craig Anderson in goal. That’s also the same group that showed its resilience by coming back three times from one-goal deficits before Stephen Weiss
scored the game winner.
While DeBoer is pleased with his team’s performance in the absence of his injured players – the Panthers’ are 5-1-2 in their last eight games and have taken 12 of a possible 16 points – he realizes there’s some talent on the sidelines.
“I think the guys who have filled in have done a great job,” he said. “Obviously, we have a lot of talented people sitting on the sideline. From a coaching perspective, it would be nice to add that talent back, but…”
And the caveat is?
“As long as we keep the identity we’ve established these last few weeks, of a hard-working, tough team to play against.”
The Panthers will need to keep that identity against the Oilers, who’ve won three consecutive games. They’re a rested team, last playing Saturday in a 3-2 victory over the Sharks in which 39-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson made 41 saves.
The Panthers know how dangerous the Oilers can be, having played them twice in preseason. The teams played on consecutive nights with each winning one game 3-2 in shootouts.
“We had the benefit of seeing them twice in exhibition,” DeBoer said. “They have a lot of speed. They have a lot of talented players and they like to skate and throw a lot of skill at you.”
“We’ll have to go with the same game plan we did (Monday) against (Dany) Heatley, (Jason) Spezza and (Daniel) Alfredsson, and what we did against (Alex) Ovechkin in Washington and (Chris) Drury and (Scott) Gomez last week in New York,” DeBoer said. “That’s try and slow them down and bottle them up and grind out another win.”NOTE
Goalie Craig Anderson (7-2-3) leads the NHL with a .941 save percentage and is third in the league with a 2.09 goals against… The Panthers are 10th in the Eastern Conference and only two points from a playoff spot and only six points from Southeast Division-leading Washington… Kamil Kreps is 12th in the league in faceoff percentage (55.1 percent)… The Panthers are 14th in the league on the penalty kill, the Oilers 29th… The Panthers have the 23rd best power play, the Oilers are ranked 11th…