Oilers, Panthers aim to ascend in standings
Monday, 12.07.2009 / 7:30 PMOILERS (12-13-4) at PANTHERS (11-13-5)
Last 10 --
Edmonton 4-4-2; Florida 3-4-3
Season series --
As is often the case when East meets West, these two teams will only meet once this season, and it was right around this time they met last. The Panthers stopped a couple of streaks, winning 2-0 at Rexall Place last Dec. 11. One was a four-game slide at the hands of the Oilers overall, another was their first win in Edmonton since Jan. 5, 1996, spanning five losses and one tie in that time.
Big story --
Not a lot of difference between this year and last for these two teams, at least as far as their records are concerned. The standings are a little different. While both are reasonably close to a playoff spot, things are a little more crowded in the conference grid this year, which puts both teams close to the bottom. Both have suffered slumps, the Oilers starting to get out of theirs, the Panthers still struggling to get back on track. Either way, both teams can use a win here.
It's the Oilers who are the hotter team coming in, having won two in a row after a dismal start to their current six-game road trip. Vancouver gave them a 7-3 thrashing on Nov. 28, but wins in Detroit and Dallas have them in position to win three in a row on the road for the first time since Nov. 13-Dec. 8, 2006.
In Dallas, they overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first period to force a shootout which Shawn Horcoff took in the fourth round.
"It tells us a lot about this team," said defenseman Ladislav Smid, who scored the tying goal with 3:07 to play in regulation. "This isn't the first time we've come back from a 2-0 lead for the opposition, so it's a great feeling.
"I think this is going to help our confidence as well. We just stayed positive in the locker room. We told each other 'keep your head up and we're gonna get something back.' We came in the second period and third period with a great attitude."
It's been about holding on for the Panthers. Since Nov. 16, they've held a third-period lead in seven games. They've lost four of them, including a heartbreaker to the Thrashers on home ice Saturday, 2-1 in a shootout. They've lost seven of eight overall (1-4-3).
"We played a pretty damn good hockey game, again,'' captain Bryan McCabe
said. "But we found a way to lose it. We have to find a way to end up on the other way of things.''
Especially disappointing was not making the most of a terrific 36-save performance by Tomas Vokoun
in his first game back since getting his ear cut with a stick swung by teammate Keith Ballard. His recovery is close enough to complete that he and Ballard are now subject to wisecracks from teammates.
"It's become nonstop, you can only imagine,'' Vokoun told the Miami Herald. "You would have to ask one of them [for an example]. I can't repeat other people's jokes.''
Who's hot --
Smid isn't the type of guy to make anyone's hot list offensively, but snapping his 151-game goal drought is worthy of mention. He scored his first goal since April 2007 in Edmonton's 3-2 shootout win in Dallas on Saturday.
"A hundred and fifty-one? Wow," he said. "I really wasn't keeping track. I would have been too frustrated."
"I'm pretty happy for Laddie," goalie Jeff Deslauriers said. "I always tell him you have a hard shot, you should shoot the puck more often. Today he did pretty good."
Panthers forward Stephen Weiss
has a four-game goal-scoring streak that includes his hat trick against Colorado on Wednesday, while Radek Dvorak
will skate in his 1,000th NHL game Monday.
Injury report --
Mike Comrie (mononucleosis) and Taylor Chorney (ankle) remain out for the Oilers, while Panthers center Gregory Campbell (shoulder) may be available this week.
Stat pack --
Vokoun, injury notwithstanding, is suffering along with his teammates with an 0-1-3 record and a 2.76 GAA in his last five games. While he generally may not factor into the scoring, Smid's teammates get it done while he's on the ice, as he leads the Oilers with a plus-12.
Puck drop --
Right now it's a case of two similar teams going in opposite directions, but it's not too late for the Panthers to turn things around and stay close in a tight Eastern Conference.