The Edmonton Oilers continue a difficult road trip this afternoon in Florida as they battle the Panthers for the second and final time this season. It is the lone trip for Edmonton to the sunshine state, and opens the club’s first back-to-back set of the month. They will be in Carolina on Sunday.
The Oilers are coming off of a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night in Tampa, while the Panthers were crushed 6-2 by the Flyers at home. Florida defeated Edmonton 6-2 at Rogers Place on October 27th.
Mikko Koskinen gets the start for the Oilers, while Samuel Montembeault gets the go for the Panthers.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Keep it simple. The Oilers are now down three of their top six forwards and will be struggling to ice a competitive roster. The Oilers have to play within their system this afternoon and must protect the puck with extra caution. Scoring will be tough, so the Oilers need to keep things simple and not give anything away.
Florida: A hard forecheck will really put the heat on Edmonton. The Oilers buckled under the pressure of the Lightning on Thursday, and the Panthers have some serious skill of their own. If Florida can pressure in the offensive zone and make the Oilers play to their pace, they should be well positioned for a nice rebound victory.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Tyler Benson was recalled when James Neal went on IR earlier this week. Benson returns to the lineup for the third time this season today and should have plenty of opportunity to make an impact. Now that the jitters are gone and Benson knows what to expect from the NHL, I’ll be interested to see how he fares. He’s got a chance to solidify a job these next few games.
Florida: Mike Hoffman is an elite sniper and could be moved prior to the trade deadline. The Oilers have had interest in Hoffman before, and the Panthers will be looking for defensive help in exchange for the scorer. Today could be a nice chance for the sides to get to know each other. Will Hoffman leave an impression on the Edmonton brass?
Connor McDavid (quad), James Neal (foot), Kris Russell (concussion) and Joakim Nygard (hand) are all on IR and will not play this afternoon. Zack Kassian is serving the first game of his seven game suspension, while William Lagesson and Markus Granlund are the expected scratches.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Kailer Yamamoto
Sam Gagner – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Josh Archibald – Riley Sheahan – Jujhar Khaira
Tyler Benson – Colby Cave – Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Caleb Jones – Matt Benning
Sergei Bobrovsky has been battling illness, and will back up this afternoon. Brian Boyle (upper-body) and Jayce Hawryluk (illness) are both day-to-day and unlikely to play this afternoon.
Florida Panthers Lines:
Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman – Vincent Trocheck – Brett Connolly
Frank Vatrano – Dominic Toninato – Colton Sceviour
Michael Matheson – Noel Acciari – Mark Pysyk
MacKenzie Weegar – Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman – Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle – Josh Brown
“They were missing two of their best players and us missing Connor, we knew we had to buckle down and grind away,” Riley Sheahan said post-game on Thursday. “For the most part, other than maybe a bit at the start of the game, we did a good job of that. It was unfortunate we couldn’t come out on top.”
The Oilers are in a dogfight in the Pacific Division. Edmonton currently sits second in the division with 66 points, but they are tied with both the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights. Edmonton has currently played less games than both teams.
The Oilers are 1-1-0 without McDavid, falling Thursday but knocking off the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place on Tuesday. They face a Panthers team reeling since the All-Star break. Florida is a poor 2-5-1 since the break. Florida is, however, 24-3-2 when scoring the game’s first goal.