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At the Rink blog

Forward Eberle returns to Oilers' top line

Sunday, 01.05.2014 / 2:51 PM

By Derek Van Diest - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Forward Eberle returns to Oilers' top line

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers (13-26-5) are shaking up their top line in an effort to snap a four-game losing skid.

Jordan Eberle returns to the Oilers' lineup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (25-12-4) at Rexall Place and will skate alongside Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the top line.

Eberle missed the 5-2 loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday with a knee injury he sustained the previous game in a collision with San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture.

"I just tried to step up and hit him and I felt my knee tweak a bit," Eberle said. "I think because of the adrenaline of the game I felt alright to play [and finish the game]. The next day was when it hit me and it was really sore. It's tough to sit out, but I'm happy to be back."

Prior to the injury, Eberle had been playing on the Oilers second line with Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov.

The Oilers' first line had consisted of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and David Perron, who struggled in the loss to the Ducks and in a 5-1 defeat against the Sharks. The trio was benched for the better part of the second period in San Jose on Thursday.

"The game in San Jose, I think it's pretty rare that a coach takes his top line and sits them on the bench for 13 minutes in the second period," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "I challenged them after the second period and I thought they would come right back the next game and be excellent and they weren't.

"I don't think they were near as bad as they were in San Jose, but the circumstance on a couple of goals, cost them plus-minus wise, but they were clearly in the hole again. We're going to break them up [Sunday] and put [Eberle] back with them and get [Perron] back with [Yakupov]."

The Oilers have struggled against teams in a playoff position this season. They have a just two wins [2-22-4] in 28 games against clubs currently occupying a playoff spot.

They lost to the Lightning 4-2 on Nov. 7, despite out-shooting Tampa Bay 40-26 in the contest.

The Lightning are currently second in the Atlantic Division standings. They go in against the Oilers having defeated the Calgary Flames, 2-0, Friday night.

"When the Oilers came in the last time, let's be honest, it was the [goalie] Ben Bishop show all the way through," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We were really fortunate to win that game. But it was also a lesson learned for us.

"You come in and you look at a team like Calgary, who are struggling a little bit of late, and we used the Edmonton game as a little bit of motivation. If we go to sleep, these guys will take us out and it's our same feeling going into [Sunday]."

Defenseman Sami Salo returns to the Lightning lineup, having missed the previous four games with an upper-body injury.

"He brings us 1,000 games worth of experience, you have another right-handed shot that kind of evens us out a little bit," Cooper said. "You have a wily veteran and you can't have enough of those guys on the back end."

Here are the projected lineups for both teams.

OILERS

Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Nail YakupovSam GagnerDavid Perron

Ryan SmythBoyd GordonAles Hemsky

Luke GazdicMark ArcobelloRyan Jones

Andrew FerenceJustin Schultz

Nick SchultzBrad Hunt

Martin MarincinJeff Petry

Ilya Bryzgalov

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Jesse Joensuu, Anton Belov.

Injured: Philip Larsen (illness), Corey Potter (groin).

LIGHTNING

Ondrej PalatTyler Johnson – Martin St. Louis

Alex KillornValtteri FilppulaTeddy Purcell

J.T. BrownNate ThompsonNikita Kucherov

Ryan MaloneRichard Panik -

Matthew CarleRadko Gudas

Victor HedmanAndrej Sustr

Eric BrewerSami Salo

Jean-Philippe Cote

Ben Bishop

Anders Lindback

Scratched: B.J. Crombeen, Tom Pyatt, Mark Barberio.

Injured: Keith Aulie (upper body), Brian Lee (knee), Steven Stamkos (leg), Mattias Ohlund (knee).

Quote of the Day

It's a little different but it feels amazing. A new chapter in my life and I'm excited. It's been amazing. Better than I expected. The weather is great, the place is just amazing. I can't say enough good things about it. I'm glad to get the season going.

— Ryan Kesler on his transition to the Anaheim Ducks