The Edmonton Oilers will wrap up their four-game swing through the Southeastern United States with a matinee game against the Florida Panthers.
1. This trip through Washington, Tampa, Carolina, and Florida is Edmonton’s most difficult swing of the season. They have four other road trips that are four games long but all of them feature at least one weak opponent while this one sees them go up against four playoff teams. Beating the Panthers and ultimately going 2-2 on the trip would be a win.
2. Thursday’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes was arguably Jack Campbell’s worst start as an Oiler, with the other one in the conversation coming back in the second game of the season when he was pulled after allowing four goals in 10 minutes to the Calgary Flames. Campbell allowed seven goals on 32 shots in Carolina and didn’t get a mercy pull.
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It was an unfortunate outing for Campbell, who appeared to be on track for a brief moment following a very strong performance in Edmonton’s win over the Lightning on Tuesday. The Oilers’ next game after Saturday doesn’t come until Wednesday, so they could start Stuart Skinner in the next two games and essentially give Campbell a full week off to find himself.
3. The Panthers know all about goalie troubles. They inked Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million deal back in 2019 and he’s now the very tandem partner with Spencer Knight, who they selected No. 13 overall at the 2019 NHL Draft. Knight has a .925 save percentage through six games this season while Bobrovsky has an .897 save percentage in eight games. No matter who’s paid what, you have to go with the goalie who gives you the best chance to win.
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4. This game will be Matthew Tkachuk’s first against the Oilers since joining his new team over the off-season. Tkachuk has been playing in Jonathan Huberdeau’s old spot alongside Aleksander Barkov on Florida’s top line and he leads the team in scoring with 17 points through 12 games. He’s just coming back from a two-game suspension for poking L.A. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick in the face with his stick.
5. This is sort of a random note, but I still find it confounding that the Panthers opted not to bring back Andrew Brunette after the season he had in 2021-22. Joel Quenneville stepped down in late October in the wake of the Chicago Blackhawks scandal and Brunette took over and led the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy and their first playoff series win since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.
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Brunette went 51-18-6 and wound up losing his gig to Paul Maurice, a coach whose biggest success was riding Arturs Irbe’s .938 save percentage to the Cup Final in 2002. I couldn’t imagine the reaction if the Oilers cut Jay Woodcroft loose over the summer for another retread after how the team performed with him behind the bench last year.
6. Florida is 8-5-1 thus far and the most noticeable difference from last season to this season is their offence. The Panthers led the league in goals last year and they currently sit 12th in the league with 46 goals through 14 games.
A big reason for the decline in scoring so far this year is the fact that Florida’s power play has been terrible. They had the fifth-best power play percentage in the league last season and it’s dropped all the way down to 13.79 percent in 2022-23. They’re missing Huberdeau and his playmaking in this aspect of their game.
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7. The Oilers lost 6-0 to the Panthers at home in January of last season in what wound up being the seventh loss in a seven-game losing streak. They beat them by a score of 4-3 on the road one month later when they were a few games into the Woodcroft era. Through nine career games against Florida, Connor McDavid has five goals and 16 points.