Panthers continue playoff push against Oilers

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Center Aleksander Barkov has 70 points this season, making him the first Florida Panthers player in a decade to reach that milestone.

Barkov joined fellow Finland native Olli Jokinen in getting to 70, a fact that no doubt amused the current Panthers star.

"Can't somebody else except Fins get 70 points?" Barkov said, before adding: "That was joke."

What is no joke are the Panthers (35-26-7), who play host to the Edmonton Oilers (30-35-5) on Saturday afternoon at the BB&T Center.

The Panthers are 16-4-1 since Jan. 30 and now have 77 points as they chase the New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers for one of two available Eastern Conference wild-card playoff spots.

Florida has also won nine of its past 10 home games, and the Panthers will be a tough out for the Oilers, who are 14-18-2 on the road this season.

The Oilers, of course, are led by the NHL's brightest young star, 21-year-old Connor McDavid, who woke up Friday morning ranking third in the league with 86 points.

McDavid has 33 goals and 53 assists in 70 games. Fellow Oilers center Leon Draisaitl ranks second on the team with 61 points (22 goals, 39 assists).

Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, 30, has had a heavy workload this season, posting a 25-27-2 record with a 3.00 goals-against average.

McDavid has six goals and nine assists in his past nine games, but Oilers coach Todd McLellan said mistakes are crushing his team, most recently in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks.

"Just a few individuals with some tough nights," McLellan said. "That created some turnovers."

The Panthers, who have played much cleaner hockey for the past several weeks, are likely to start their No. 1 goalie, 38-year-old Roberto Luongo, against Edmonton. Luongo has been idle since Monday.

On Thursday, Panthers backup James Reimer tied his season high with 46 saves, blanking the Boston Bruins 3-0. It was Reimer's third shutout of the season, and it came on his 30th birthday.

In franchise history, only Craig Anderson (53 saves in 2008) has had more stops in a shutout.

It was a big win for the Panthers as they knocked off a Bruins team that finished the night with the third-best record in the NHL.

"We came out hot," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said, "and we didn't really give them a sniff."

Ekblad (14 goals, 30 points) is one-half of Florida's top defensive pairing. The other half of the duo is Keith Yandle, who has 47 points. That makes for one of the highest-scoring defensive duos in the NHL.

Among the Panthers forwards, the big three are Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau.

Trocheck has 13 power-play goals, placing him in the top five in the NHL, tying him for fourth place with Alex Ovechkin. Only Patrik Laine (18), Steven Stamkos (15) and Evgeni Malkin (14) had more power-play goals as of Friday afternoon.

As for Florida's other top forwards, consider Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad. Dadonov has 25 points in his past 21 games. Bjugstad has 13 points in his past 11 games.

That could be a lot for Edmonton to handle.

Both the Oilers and Panthers are relatively healthy. Edmonton has been missing defenseman Matt Benning (illness). Florida has been without defenseman Alex Petrovic (upper-body injury).