Panthers, Oilers in battle of .500 teams
The Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers are practically mirror images of each other.
They head into their meeting Thursday night in Edmonton coming off disappointing, one-sided road defeats.
Both are sitting at the NHL's unique version of .500 but outside of a playoff spot -- a far cry from where they expected to be when the puck dropped on the 2018-19 campaign.
And both teams know they can't wait much longer to find their expected form and string together a winning streak.
"We're still not completely out of it," said Edmonton winger Milan Lucic after his team was thumped 7-2 by the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night -- a clash in which he ended his goal scoring drought at 41 games.
"We have more than enough games left to get it going. I think this is a team that can get where it wants to go."
Edmonton (20-20-3) has dropped eight of 10 games but is only a couple of points back of a wild-card spot. Despite their struggles, the Oilers are looking at a golden chance to make a push. Six of their next seven games are on home ice, and only two of their next eight opponents are currently in a playoff position.
Sure, the middling Oilers have no right to look down on any club, but the potential to get on a roll is right there -- provided they find something that's been in short supply this season.
"This road trip, we played two really good games and two bad games. We've got to find that consistency," forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said.
Consistency has also eluded the Panthers (17-17-7), who have dropped three straight games and arrive in Edmonton after a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday to kick off a five-game road trip.
Well, the Panthers have been consistent in one area of late -- falling behind. Florida has surrendered the first goal in seven consecutive contests, four times within the first two minutes.
"It's tough to play from behind ... against any team in this league," said right-winger Colton Sceviour.
Against the Penguins, things were so bad for the Panthers that starting goalie Roberto Luongo was hooked before the midway point. A trio of talented skaters in Keith Yandle, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman were also benched at that point, a warranted reaction by coach Bob Boughner after watching his team surrender a pair of short-handed goals five minutes apart to leave them with a 4-0 deficit.
"Those guys have been good all year on the power play, and tonight when we need them the most -- we're in a playoff push -- you have two or three guys that are just out to lunch," Boughner said.
"It's just I was going to play the guys that wanted to play, the guys that were ready to play."
There is some good news of late for the Panthers. Captain Aleksander Barkov has been on roll, having collected 15 points (six goals, nine assists) over his past 11 games.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 9, 2019