There have been a few instances this season where the Tampa Bay Lightning have gone into a game with momentum, but saw it fizzle by puck drop. With a wave of injuries hitting the Edmonton Oilers, the Bolts must be cognizant of the past, so they do not fall back into these old tendencies Thursday, even against a team who has not yet performed like they had hoped.
“It seems this year we’ve found a way to get up for the really big games, but not so much in the games against the teams that maybe didn’t have the start they wanted,” Steven Stamkos said. “We need to play every game like it’s a playoff game heading in and I think we are getting there.”
Much like the Lightning, the Oilers are comprised of young talent – the two clubs own four of the past six number one selections in the draft (Stamkos, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov). The infusion of youth on both sides of the ice will help replicate a playoff atmosphere.
“On any given night anyone can beat anyone, including a skilled team like the Oilers,” Stamkos said. “That’s the great thing about this league.”
That postseason mentality, along with being a bit more consistent, will go a long way for Tampa Bay, whose next stretch of games include three divisional opponents in their barns and a week on the West Coast.
KEEPING IT CONSISTENT
The Bolts were more consistent in their last 90 mintutes-or-so of hockey, resulting in wins against the Carolina Hurricanes and the St. Louis Blues. It remained a theme at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday.
In his pre-game press conference, Jon Cooper eluded to the team's mentality about being first in their division.
“Even though we’ve been playing well, there are game where we can sustain a little bit more,” Victor Hedman said. “We have had a few days of rest, but we need to come out of the gates and play a full 60 minutes of high-tempo hockey.”
If Tampa Bay can do that, there is a good chance they will see the results they want on the ice. It’s also like getting that extra piece of candy on Halloween. You’re full, but you still want it because it tastes so good,” according to head coach Jon cooper.
THE YOUTH MOVEMENT
A better number of the Oilers roster has not hit their mid-20s yet. Despite the learning curve that young age brings, the skill up front is more than prevalent.
“They’re a young team, lots of skilled guys who really play well offensively,” Valtteri Filppula said. “They are really dangerous, so we need to play really well defensively, get chances and capitalize on those to hopefully get enough goals to win.”
Edmonton’s youthful lineup and a win in Florida against the Panthers on Thursday gives them momentum of their own heading into Thursday.
Cooper also added his own insight on what consistency means for the Lightning.
“The sign of a great team is playing consistently well,” Cooper said “For the most part we’ve done that, but you have to pull it out of the guys and it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Just 14 games in, Cooper was also not ready to put exact measurements on the Bolts’ play.
“I want to look, come January, and see how consistently they’ve played then,” he said. “That will be a good sign of how we’re doing.”
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Ben Bishop gets the call in net Thursday. He looks for his 10th win of the season in tonight’s meeting with the Oilers. Bishop recorded his first NHL shutout against the Oilers on February 25, 2011, his lone appearance against Edmonton.
Thursday night is Military Night at the Times Forum and before the game, the Veterans Hockey League skated with alumn, Dave Andreychuk, in a practice held at the arena.