OILERS (29-36-8) at LIGHTNING (32-33-7)
TV: SNET-Edmonton (HD), SUN (HD)
Last 10: Edmonton 4-4-2, Tampa Bay 4-5-1
Season Series: One and done for these two. The Oilers won the last meeting between the teams, 4-3 in a shootout at Rexall Place on Dec. 10, 2010, and have taken the last three games after Tampa Bay won the previous four.
Big Story: The Lightning are theoretically still in the Eastern Conference race, but they've lost six of seven to fall nine points behind the eighth-seeded Capitals with 10 games to go. The Oilers' fate was decided long ago, but they're 3-0-1 in their last four games they've had some fun influencing the order of things in the Western Conference with some well-timed wins over playoff contenders.
Oilers: They're becoming a team nobody wants to face down the stretch. They've dealt setbacks to the Sharks, Flames and Predators and will have the opportunity to mess up a few more teams before they go home for the summer. The Preds went into Tuesday's home matchup poised to put some room between themselves and the Red Wings for fourth place in the West and ran into a buzz saw. Ales Hemsky scored his first career hat trick while he and his teammates chased Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne from the nets in a 6-3 win. It was not unlike the pasting they gave Rinne in a 6-2 win on Nov. 22.
"It's nice to see the results for those guys working hard and staying with it," said coach Tom Renney, whose team is 5-1-1 in its last seven road games. "It's not been an easy season for us, but it is a season that we continue to grow through and be better for in the long run."
Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 41 shots and appears to be working his way towards the No. 1 role, having played 13 of the last 17 games. Renney has begun to look at him that way.
"Yes, you do ... in fairness to (Nikolai Khabibulin) and our circumstance that's what you need. For our team to grow and move forward, you need that type of goaltending from somebody and certainly Devan provided that in Nashville," Renney told the Edmonton Journal.
Lightning: The lineup is gutted by injuries, and the active roster is full of inexperienced players, but the Lightning refuse to fall back on either as the cause of their 7-2 pummeling at the hands of the desperate Sabres on Monday.
"We didn't show up. We didn't battle," defenseman Bruno Gervais said to the Tampa Bay Times. "We need to get better. We need to take some pride and bounce back for the next game." He was pointing to turnovers and defensive breakdowns that led to Buffalo goals and an embarrassing home-ice performance for the Bolts. They bounced back from it with a rigorous practice on Tuesday.
"We still have to take pride in our game," defenseman Victor Hedman said to the Times. "If we play loose like that these next 10 games we're going to be embarrassed."
Who's Hot: With the hat trick, Hemsky has four goals in his last two games after scoring one goal in his previous 29. Dubnyk has gotten attention thanks in part to a 12-8-2 record since Jan. 1, including three wins in his last four starts, including a shutout.
Injury Report: Taylor Hall (concussion) has been skating with the team and could be back in action during the team's current road trip but the Oilers are following protocol and not rushing. Forward Lennart Petrell left Tuesday's game with a groin injury and may return during the trip. … Lightning forward Ryan Shannon is officially out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a right shoulder injured last Saturday. Nate Thompson and Adam Hall are still day-to-day with upper-body injuries, while goalie Mathieu Garon (groin) and Vinny Lecavalier (hand) have had no change in status.
Stat Pack: Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, the NHL's goal-scoring leader with 50, hasn't had a point in three games, a season high. Rookie Goalie Dustin Tokarski was pulled from a second straight start against the Sabres and was sent down to Norfolk on Tuesday.
Puck Drop: The Bolts' current seven-game homestand was supposed to be the final push to the playoffs. Instead, at 1-4-0, it has turned into a nightmarish slide out of contention. Still, they haven't given up yet.
"Everything matters," coach Guy Boucher said on the team website. "Everything we do today matters for tomorrow, it matters for next year, it matters for the team, it matters for the organization and it matters for the fans. I really truly believe that you can gain something every day. I understand things have been tough for us, but we have to maintain a very high standard of not just play, but character, work ethic and attitude. It's not about winning right now. It's about giving every single ounce of energy and being the best we can be for the fans so it's worth their money."