Edmonton Oilers prepare to face Panthers as vital stretch of home games begins

It’s time for the Edmonton Oilers to make hay at home.

“We feel like we have a great schedule until the end of the year. We feel we have a real opportunity. We have to do something with it,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock.

The Oilers host the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, kicking off a stretch of six of seven at home.

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Edmonton has lost five straight on home ice, and they’re only 2-8 in their last 10. Despite that, the Oilers are only three points out of a playoff spot.

Hitchcock believes the Oilers can make a push but says there about a half-dozen areas of the team’s game that need improvement.

“We’re not playing as well in the offensive zone as we did when we were controlling the hockey game,” he explained. “We’re guilty of forcing offensive, playing too much ‘hope for’ hockey in the offensive zone and we’re turning it into a track meet, which doesn’t suit our group well.”

Hitchcock said defenceman Alexander Petrovic is going through concussion protocol after leaving Tuesday’s loss against San Jose. He’s hopeful forward Kailer Yamamoto will be able to return from an upper-body injury that happened Saturday against Arizona.

The Oilers’ expected lineup is:

Draisaitl — McDavid — Chiasson

Lucic — Nugent-Hopkins — Puljujarvi

Rieder — Khaira — Kassian

Gambardella — Brodziak — Spooner

Nurse — Russell

Jones — Larsson

Gravel — Benning

Talbot

Catch the Oilers and the Panthers on 630 CHED with the Faceoff Show at 5:30 p.m. The game starts at 7 p.m.

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