TAMPA -- The two teams meeting Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum are going nowhere fast; but one team seems as if it will get there quicker.
Both virtually eliminated from postseason contention (though the Lightning are still mathematically alive), the Edmonton Oilers and the Tampa Bay Lightning hook up for a rare face-to-face meeting, their first since Dec.10, 2010.
The Oilers are intent on ending their season on a good note and have compiled a 5-1-1 record over their past seven games, including a 6-3 schooling of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay, by contrast, is limping to the finish line, beset by enough injuries to make a good bit of their current roster resemble the Norfolk Admirals, their AHL affiliate. They are 1-5-1 over their last seven games, during which they have been outscored by a margin of 28-18.
"Goals are like bananas, they come in bunches," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
Yes, he has no bananas, and Boucher can explain why.
"Half our team is from the AHL right now, so other teams key on our scorers and can shut them down, plus (Steven) Stamkos and (Martin) St. Louis and (Ryan) Malone are spending so much time on the ice, there is a wear and tear in there," he said.
Stamkos hasn't had a goal since reaching 50 three games ago, and St. Louis has 1 goal in his last 10 games.
But Boucher points out that the team is not just going to mail the last few games in.
"You can see the quality of our individuals; they are working extremely hard," Boucher said. "It's easy to close the books and just go through the motions, but that's not what these guys are doing. We had some meetings the past two days, but meetings are just words; they are showing me actions, and I'm impressed."
Dwayne Roloson, starting in net for the Lightning Thursday night, agreed.
"It's a difficult time," Roloson said, "but we have a lot of guys here now that have been up and down all year and it's an opportunity for everyone, myself included, to go out and play and some of the guys who don't have contracts for next year, and this is a chance to continue playing and maybe get an offer someplace else."
Here are tonight's projected lineups:
Ryan Jones - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Teemu Hartikainen - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Lennart Petrell
Darcy Hordichuk - Eric Belanger - Ben Eager
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Ryan Whitney - Nick Schultz
Theo Peckham - Corey Potter
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Pierre-Cedric Labrie
Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Keith Aulie
Brian Lee - Brendan Mikkelson