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.
Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Nail Yakupov – Sam Gagner – David Perron
Ryan Smyth – Boyd Gordon – Ales Hemsky
Luke Gazdic – Mark Arcobello – Ryan Jones
Andrew Ference – Justin Schultz
Nick Schultz – Brad Hunt
Martin Marincin – Jeff Petry
Scratched: Jesse Joensuu, Anton Belov.
Injured: Philip Larsen (illness), Corey Potter (groin).
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn – Valtteri Filppula – Teddy Purcell
J.T. Brown – Nate Thompson – Nikita Kucherov
Ryan Malone – Richard Panik -
Matthew Carle – Radko Gudas
Victor Hedman – Andrej Sustr
Eric Brewer – Sami Salo
Scratched: B.J. Crombeen, Tom Pyatt, Mark Barberio.
Injured: Keith Aulie (upper body), Brian Lee (knee), Steven Stamkos (leg), Mattias Ohlund (knee).