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At the Rink: Oilers at Lightning

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- The Edmonton Oilers will be without forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; SNW, SUN).

Nugent-Hopkins, the first pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, will be out for 6-8 weeks after breaking his hand while blocking a shot by Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on Monday.

Currently, Edmonton (19-23-5) has four centers on the roster and is expected to make a recall Tuesday before the game.

"He's a key player for us and a big-time player for our team," center Leon Draisaitl said. "Obviously now it's time for other guys to step up and kind of pick that up. He did everything -- he kills penalties, plays on the power play, he produces offensively, takes faceoffs ... all-around player. It's going to hurt but we have the skill and the players to replace him."

Oilers coach Todd McLellan said there will be more hand injuries in the future with the way young players block shots.

"You have to give every one of them credit for wanting to be in the lane and establishing the fact that they are willing to do it," McLellan said. "But the way young players block shots now, they lower their hands to the ice. Players used to come out and lay down, line their shin pads up. Now you come out, go down to one knee and open up your hands."

McLellan also dismissed the idea of forward Connor McDavid returning before the All-Star break. McDavid, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, is traveling with the team and skated Tuesday morning with the other expected scratches. The rest of the Oilers did not skate after playing Monday.

"He's not ready," McLellan said. "Can you imagine if we put Connor McDavid in [Tuesday] and he got hurt because he's not ready?"

Tampa Bay (24-17-4) is on a five-game win streak and has moved into third place in the Atlantic Division. Captain Steven Stamkos said the team is starting to feel the momentum.

"Things came into frame a little bit on that Western Canadian trip for us," Stamkos said. "I think we've been able to put ourselves in this position because of the way we have prepared and played. For the most part over this stretch we've played consistent hockey."

The Lightning scored three times in the third period to defeat the Oilers 3-2 on Jan. 8. That game started the current win streak and coach Jon Cooper said the team is starting to get rewarded for their play.

"This is a long [win streak] for us," Cooper said. "Personally I think back to the minors when we had 28 in a row. And you walk into the arena every night and it's [already] 1-0 for you. Ask (Florida Panthers coach) Gerard Gallant two weeks ago and I'm sure he felt the same way. Every break they get the [other team] is thinking, 'They are in a roll.' It just turns into a snowball and hopefully that will happen with us."

Andrei Vasilevskiy will get his second start in goal in the past three games for the Lightning while Andres Nilsson will start for the second time in the past 13 games for the Oilers.

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Leon Draisaitl - Teddy Purcell

Jordan Eberle - Matt Hendricks - Benoit Pouliot

Nail Yakupov - Mark Letestu - Zack Kassian

Iiro Pakarinen - Anton Lander - Luke Gazdic

Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne

Darnell Nurse - Justin Schultz

Brandon Davidson - Eric Gryba

Anders Nilsson

Cam Talbot

Injured: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand), Lauri Korpikoski (foot), Oscar Klefbom (undisclosed), Connor McDavid (clavicle)

Scratched: Brad Hunt


Ondrej Palat - Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan

Cedric Paquette - Brian Boyle - Erik Condra

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Braydon Coburn

Andrej Sustr - Nikita Nesterov

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Ben Bishop

Injured: Joel Vermin (hand)

Scratched: Jonathan Marchessault, Matthew Carle

Status report: Boyle participated in the morning skate with the rest of the team and is expected to play Tuesday. ... McLellan said he will keep Hendricks with Eberle and Pouliot but he will manage his lines as the game progresses. ... Marchessault has been a healthy scratch five out of the past six games.

Who's hot: Kucherov scored two goals in the Lightning's 3-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday. ... Purcell had a goal and two assists in the Oilers' 4-2 win against the Panthers on Monday.

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