Tonight at 7 pm the Florida Panthers will faceoff with the Oilers at Rexall Place in Edmonton, AB. Tonight's contest will be the 25th between the two. Florida is currently 8-9-4 in the all-time series, with three ties. Like the Panthers' last game, with a win tonight, they'll get to .500 in points percentage all-time with a win.
Florida hasn't defeated Edmonton, believe it or not, since December 11th, 2008. Radek Dvorak and Stephen Weiss potted markers, and Craig Anderson stopped all 41 Oilers shots for the 2-0 shutout victory. Since then, the Panthers have gone 0-2-3 in the series.
Now, on to tonight's version of the Oilers.
Taylor Hall, Benoit Pouliot, Matt Fraser and Matt Hendricks will split time on the left wing for the Oilers tonight.
Hall leads Edmonton with 11 goals and with 27 points, and ranks sixth on the team with 51 hits. He's an explosive skater with natural scoring ability and unequaled puck skills. He has been known to make the difficult look routine, and he's a great finisher who seemingly never runs out of energy. He's lacking a little in defensive zone coverage, and sometimes his recklessness gets him in trouble. He's earned three points in his last two games. He's racked up an even Corsi% while starting just over half the time in the offensive zone against tougher than average competition in 19:32 per game.
Pouliot has racked up five goals and five assists in 24 games this season. His 15.6 shooting percentage ranks first on the team with anyone who has taken more than 10 shots, and also pitches in defensively, with 31 hits and 18 blocked shots on the year. He's a sneaky attacker who can score in bunches - tall but not overly thick, at 6'3", 197 lbs. He doesn't always bring as much effort as he could and he's prone to bad penalties. Over time, he's started nearly 60% of the time in the offensive zone and currently sits just above even in shot generation, at plus-7 Corsi against easy competition in 15:32 per contest.
Matt Fraser has only appeared in six games this season so far, and has two goals to his credit in 12 minutes per game. He's an industrious player with good size and a track record of racking up points at lower levels. His particularly physical brand of hockey sometimes results in bad penalties, and he's not the best skater. Fraser earns his minutes against the toughest competition, starting exactly half of his shifts in each zone and sitting at minus-27 Corsi.
Matt Hendricks, like second liner Pouliot, has five goals and five assists this year. He's played 37 times this year, averaging 12:33 per game and racking up a team leading 99 hits with 37 blocked shots. He's a hard worker with a lot of energy and physicality, but he needs to outwork everyone because he doesn't have a lot of natural NHL skill. He also takes a lot of bad penalties. He plays tough minutes against tough opponents and starts less than 20% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Derek Roy, Anton Lander and Boyd Gordon will center Edmonton's four lines tonight.
Hopkins shares the scoring lead with 11 goals on 93 shots. He has 14 assists. He's averaged 21:18 over his first 40 games this year, with 48 hits and 20 blocked shots. Of the four Oilers who have faced off more than 100 times, he ranks third with a 47.6% success rate. He plays sheltered minutes, facing off against easy competition and earning an even Corsi% with 56% positive zone starts. He has patience and good hockey-sense, is a good two-way player, and brings his teammates' game up. His size leaves something to be desired - but he hasn't really missed a lot of games due to injury at the NHL level.
Derek Roy recently arrived after getting put on waivers by the Nashville Predators, and has two goals and three assists in his first six games. Do you think he has something to prove? He sees the ice well and makes his teammates better, with a good work ethic. He sometimes has a tendency to wear down due to his physical style and his diminutive size (5'9", 175 lbs.). Since arriving, he has taken the ice against the toughest competition and started 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone with a minus-15 Corsi. He hasn't broken any records in the faceoff dots, winning less than 40% of his attempts.
Anton Lander has only played five NHL games this season. He's totalled three assists this year, with one in each of his last three games. He wins 55% of his faceoffs, and in his limited time has played against hard comptetition with 40% offensive zone starts and a minus-26 Corsi. He has great hockey sense, and is able to anticipate his opponent's next move. He's a good two-way player and a better penalty killer, but he's not a natural goal-scorer.
Boyd Gordon wins 56% of his faceoffs, and has scored five goals with three assists this year in 14 minutes per game. He's played 37 games so far. He's a good defensive forward and a natural leader, and versatile enough to play any of the three forward positions. He's not very consistent, though, and is prone to the odd injury. He plays against the easiest competition and starts around 16% of the time in the offensive zone. Correspondingly, he's only at around minus-75 Corsi events.
Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Teddy Purcell and Rob Klinkhammer will get all the playing time on right wing tonight.
Eberle ranks second on the team with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists). He has 29 hits and 18 blocked shots in 19:03 per game over his 41 appearances. He's a capable setup man with a keen awareness on the ice, but a better goal scorer with a very accurate shot. He's kind of small, and lacks the strength for complete defensive zone coverage. He starts 60% of the time in the offensive zone, and currently sits at plus-20 in Corsi events.
Yakupov is a phenomenal sniper with great puck skills and serious speed. He's not the best without the puck, and needs to bulk up a little to deal with NHL caliber defensemen. He has scored five goals in 42 games so far, with six assists and a train wreck minus-17 rating. In 14:30 per game, he starts almost 70% of the time in the offensive zone against the weakest competition, yet manages a position-worst minus-75 Corsi.
Teddy Purcell plays 16 minutes per game, and owns a team-worst minus-19 rating. He has scored five goals with 13 assists. He has loads of offensive ability and is equally skilled at either wing, although he lacks consistency and isn't very good on defense. He leads the right wing corps with a plus-40 Corsi in 59% Zone Starts against easy competition.
Rob Klinkhammer recently joined the Oilers after stints with the Arizona Coyotes and the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. He's totaled four goals and three assists in 32 games altogether, with one assist in his three games since he joined Edmonton. In his limited time, he has faced off against the toughest competition with the least favorable zone starts (30%), somehow posting a plus-4 Corsi. He plays a simple game, sticking to strength but lacking consistency.
Edmonton's first pairing consists of Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry. The two started 42% of the time in the offensive zone, but Petry has a plus-40 Corsi and a Ference has a minus-50. They clearly haven't been paired together all season. They're both very physical, as Ference has 86 hits and 52 blocked shots and Petry has 62 hits and 54 blocks. Ference displays good hockey sense, skates very well, and can play a lot of minutes, currently averaging 20:32 per game. Petry is a smooth puck handler and sometimes jumps in on offensive breakouts. He has a hard shot. Petry has four goals and six assists, while Ference has scored two with five helpers.
The Oilers employ Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz as their second pairing. Klefbom has good size and plays with a physical edge, but he's reckless, and misses time with injuries due to that. He has two assists in 20 games for the Oilers this season with 21 hits and 32 blocked shots. Schultz has played 41 games, and leads the team with 58 blocked shots and 20 hits. He's extremely offensive for a defenseman, and can act as a fourth forward when the team is pressing for a goal. He has three goals and 13 assists on the season, but he's not the greatest without the puck.
The blueline is rounded out with Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. Nikitin has two goals and four assists in 27 games, while Fayne has a goal and four assists, and is one of three players to have appeared in each of Edmonton's 42 games this season. He has good size and a lot of offensive ability, using sound position for defense. Nikitin has great mobility, and shoots the puck well, but he shies away from a physical type of game. He's not a very consistent defender.
Ben Scrivens will probably get the start tonight. He's 8-13-7 this season, with a 2.98 GAA and an .898 save percentage. He's never lost to the Panthers, currently with a 3-0-0 record, a 1.19 GAA and a .962 save percentage.