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Edmonton Oilers Visit Florida Panthers: Game 74 Preview

The Edmonton Oilers have only pride to play for as the Cats continue to close on the playoffs.

EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 10:  Nik Khabibulin #35 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a save off a shot by the Florida Panthers in first-period action at Rexall Place October 10, 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 10: Nik Khabibulin #35 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a save off a shot by the Florida Panthers in first-period action at Rexall Place October 10, 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
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The Edmonton Oilers drip into town for the only match of the year against our Panthers. Florida is 20-9-8 (.649) at home, the Oilers are a less than awe-inspiring 11-21-4 (.361) on the road.

Florida is coming off a back-to-back road trip in which they beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1 on Tuesday and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. Ironically, both outcomes prevented the losing team in each game from completing or continuing a sweep in the season series. They'll finish up their current two game homestand as they go for yet another sweep attempt against the New York Islanders on Sunday. Florida's magic numbers are 12 for a playoff berth (over current number nine Buffalo) and 13 for a division title (against division second best Washington).

Videos, historical data, stats and more after the jump.

The Oilers will be playing in their third game of a four game roadtrip. They defeated the Nashville Predators, 6-3 on Tuesday before dropping a shootout last night to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2. They'll finish up Sunday night against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. The Oilers were one of the first teams to be eliminated from postseason contention, and are playing for pride tonight.

Florida has not played the Oilers since opening day of last season. Edmonton beat Florida 3-2 as Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 26-of-28 shots on goal. Dustin Penner (1), Ryan Jones (1), and Shawn Horcoff (2) scored for the Oilers, while Marty Reasoner (1, 2) scored the only goals for the Panthers. Steve Bernier earned assists on each goal. Tomas Vokoun took the loss, allowing all three goals on only 13 Edmonton shots. Vokoun talked afterwards about the bounce of the puck,

"There's not much you can do," shrugged Vokoun. "One was a good deflection. The other two, you know, one guy (Jones) didn't even know it hit his stick. The other one goes off the skate. It's tough. I think we played well. We were the better team the whole game. We just didn't have good fortune tonight."

Panthers @ Oilers 10/10/10 (via NHLVideo)

The Panthers are coming off a 3-1 setback at the hands of the suddenly relevant Carolina Hurricanes. Tomas Fleischmann (23) scored the lone goal for the Panthers, the only blemish on a 30 save performance by Canes netminder Cam Ward. Eric Staal (22, 23) and Joni Pitkanen (4) scored for the Hurricanes. Jose Theodore took his first loss in his last five decisions, allowing all three goals on 39 Carolina shots. Panthers coach Kevin Dineen spoke afterwards about losing the handle after a five-game winning streak,

"That was certainly not our expectation, trying to play a loose game," said Florida coach Kevin Dineen, whose team settled for a lone goal from Tomas Fleischmann. "I felt we needed to be more patient in areas that have been strengths for us. Our board play and special teams were an issue tonight, but overall, it was just the jump and enthusiam that was certainly leaning towards the home team."

Panthers @ Hurricanes 03/21/12 (via NHLVideo)

Check out Canes Country for more Carolina hope in the face of an early summer.

The Oilers extended the Tampa Bay Lightning to a shootout last night, finally losing when Teddy Purcell scored for Tampa Bay in the sixth round for the victory. Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner had scored in the earlier rounds, equalled by Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. In regulation, Tom Pyatt (9, 10) scored for the Bolts, and Linus Omark (3) and Ladislav Smid (4) lit the lamp for Edmonton. Dwayne Roloson earned the victory by stopping 34-of-36 shots. Khabibulin allowed both regulation goals on only 21 Tampa Bay shots. Edmonton coach Tom Renney spoke afterwards,

"I thought we worked hard," Renney said. "I wanted a different outcome for that. I certainly thought we worked hard and did everything we could to claw back and get a point, at least. If we had any luck, we might have had two."

Common Thread:
Oilers winger Darcy Hordichuk spent 124 games over three seasons with the Panthers. He scored four goals and five assists with a minus-12 rating and 249(!) penalty minutes. That is just over one penalty per game played.

Panthers Milestones:

Dmitry Kulikov will play in game number 190 for Florida, tying Ray Sheppard in 44th all-time.

Kris Versteeg and Jason Garrison are tied in 49th all time with 22 each. Tomas Fleischmann is in 48th with 23, one short of Dave Gagner in 47th. Shawn Matthias will move past Mike Van Ryn with his next goal, into 45th all-time with 26. Mike Santorelli will move into a tie with Niklas Hagman in 37th all-time with his next goal, number 30. Ed Jovanovski will move into 32nd with his next goal, number 32, with Richard Zednik. Stephen Weiss will pass Nathan Horton into fourth all-time with his next goal, number 143.

Brian Campbell will move into a tie with Ruslan Salei in 42nd all-time with his 46th assist. Dmitry Kulikov will pass Martin Gelinas into 34th all-time with his 55th assist.

Florida Panthers Season Leaders: (from Hockey Reference)

Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 73

Tomas Fleischmann - 23
Kris Versteeg - 22
Stephen Weiss - 18
Sean Bergenheim - 17

Brian Campbell - 45
Stephen Weiss - 35
Tomas Fleischmann - 30

Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss - 53
Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell - 49

Jason Garrison - plus-8
Stephen Weiss - plus-7
Marcel Goc - plus-6

Point Shares:
Jose Theodore - 9.1
Brian Campbell - 7.8
Jason Garrison - 7.6
Kris Versteeg - 6.2
Tomas Fleischmann - 6.1
Stephen Weiss - 6.0

Panthers Injuries:
Jack Skille and Matt Bradley are both out, Skille for the season, and Bradley until April at the earliest.

Panthers Starting Lineup:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Mike Santorelli - Scottie Upshall
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Of course, this is all pure conjecture, as coach Dineen always plays it close to the vest, but Jose Theodore (22-14-7, .920, 2.40) may be up next....

Oilers injuries:

Edmonton Oilers Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Taylor Fedun femur 10/03/2011

Oilers Starting Lineup:

Ryan Jones - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Teemu Hartikainen - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Linus Omark
Darcy Hordichuk - Eric Belanger - Ben Eager

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Ryan Whitney - Nick Schultz
Andy Sutton - Corey Potter

Nikolai Khabibulin started last night against Tampa Bay, so look for Devan Dubnyk (17-17-2, .913, 2.75) tonight.

Corsi Ratings: (last five games):

Florida Panthers:
Marcel Goc - .543
Sean Bergenheim - .521
Mikael Samuelsson - .500
Dmitry Kulikov - .500
Erik Gudbranson, Ed Jovanovski - .491

Edmonton Oilers:


Florida Panthers: 36-24-13, 85 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 13th NHL, on pace for 95 points. Last five games: W-W-W-W-L. Playoff odds: 98.3%

Edmonton Oilers: 29-36-9, 67 points, fifth Northwest Division, 14th Western Conference, 29th NHL, on pace for 74 points. Last five games: W-W-O-W-O. Playoff odds: LOL

Gametime: 7:30 PM ET

Season Series: 0-0-0

All-Time Series: 8-8-5

Prognostication: The Oilers ride into town on a five game point streak. However, they have been out of contention for a long while and have thus far posted a 3-6-1 record on the second night of back-to-back games. The key to the Panthers success tonight will be in limiting the scoring chances of young threats Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Linus Omark. If you haven't seen Omark's potential, check this out. The kid is unreal.

For Edmonton's perspective, check out The Copper & Blue.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.