Oilers, Panthers meet in clash between sliding teams

( - The Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers were both looking to take some steps forward this season, but a month into the schedule they instead find themselves with similar struggles.

The two clubs meet on Tuesday night in Florida looking to snap five-game losing streaks.

The Oilers and Panthers are both near the bottom of the standings in the NHL thanks to their season-long struggles. Edmonton is last in the Western Conference with just eight points, while Florida is 14th out of 16 clubs in the East with nine points.

The Oilers have lost five straight for the second time already this season, notching a pair of 0-4-1 droughts, while the Panthers' season-long skid has produced two regulation defeats along with a trio of shootout setbacks.

Both clubs will try to avoid losing six in a row for the first time since April of last season. Edmonton did so from April 4-16, while Florida's came on April 11-21 and both teams failed to secure a single point over their respective skids.

Edmonton has been shut out in back-to-back games, losing 4-0 to Toronto on Tuesday before suffering a 5-0 loss to Detroit on Saturday. Both setbacks came at home and the Oilers were outshot 31-14 by the Red Wings.

The Oilers have not scored since 4:12 into the second period of a 2-1 shootout setback to Los Angeles on Oct. 27.

"We had no one stand up and push back," said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins. "We've got a group that is hurting. They're dying. They've lost their confidence. The best way to get your confidence back is with some success and it starts with one guy to push back. It feeds the rest of the group.

"My job right now is I've got to find a way to give this group some confidence. They're dying. They're hurting. I believe they are trying, but we're playing scared right now. You can't play scared in this league or you're going to get killed."

Edmonton goalie Richard Bachman suffered an injured groin in the first period after allowing two goals on nine shots and Jason LaBarbera gave up three goals on 22 shots in relief.

Bachman was making his third straight start with Devan Dubnyk out with a sprained ankle, but is not expected to be in uniform tonight. Nor are defenseman Anton Belov and Justin Schultz due to injury, so Edmonton recalled Taylor Fedun from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League and the 25-year- old defenseman could make his NHL debut tonight.

Also, Dubnyk and forward Ryan Smyth are expected to be in uniform tonight for the Oilers. Smyth has been out since Oct. 22 with a groin injury and practiced on a line with Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov, while it is unknown if Dubnyk will start or dress as the backup.

After leaving its home fans frustrated, Edmonton begins a four-game road trip tonight and has not lost in Florida since March 8, 2002. The Oilers have won each of their past four trips to Sunrise, including three straight in a shootout.

The Panthers have lost seven of their last eight versus the Oilers overall and are coming off Saturday's 3-2 shootout defeat to Washington.

Tomas Fleischmann scored during a 4-on-3 power play with 2:38 left in regulation to force extra time, but Scott Clemmensen failed to stop any of the three skaters he faced in the shootout after posting 21 saves through overtime.

"I'm still confident in our guys," said Florida coach Kevin Dineen.

Jesse Winchester also scored for the Panthers, who have just one victory in their last nine games.

With Tim Thomas still not ready to return from a lower-body injury, Clemmensen or Jacob Markstrom will start tonight. Markstrom has never faced the Oilers, while Clemmensen allowed two goals on 28 shots in a loss the only other time he faced them.

Dubnyk stopped 26-of-27 shots faced to win his only encounter with the Panthers, while LaBarbera has never started against Edmonton. He did stop all eight shots faced in one relief appearance.