TAMPA, FL - The Oilers are aiming for the season sweep of the Lightning tonight as their four-game road trip makes its second stop for the first of two games in the Sunshine State.
Edmonton and Tampa Bay squared off on Oct. 20, 2014 at Rexall Place, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory for the home side. Justin Schultz got the Oilers on the board that game, while Taylor Hall beat goalie Ben Bishop on a second period penalty shot for a key momentum swing.
The Oilers will be looking to repeat that performance in the Lightning’s home rink tonight and also put an end to a two-game losing skid that continued in their road trip opener Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues with a 4-2 setback. The Oil and Lightning split their 2013-14 season series, though Edmonton did outshoot Tampa 65-52 in the two games.
“In the past couple of years we’ve seemed to match up pretty well,” Nugent-Hopkins said of the Lightning (27-14-4). “They’re a really good team and they’re showing it this year. We know they’re going to come out hard in their own building. We’ve got to be ready for that and try to match them.”
“We get a chance to try to get back on a winning record here and a team that we usually play pretty well against,” RNH’s linemate Jordan Eberle added. “They have a lot of offence over there and a couple guys that you definitely have to key on.”
STOPPING STAMKOS & CO.
Those “guys that you definitely have to key on” include top point producers Steven Stamkos (43 points), Nikita Kucherov (42) and Ondrej Palat (34) who make up Tampa’s top forward unit. Fortunately for the Oilers, Lightning leading scorer Tyler Johnson (46 points) is injured and won’t play tonight.
Matt Fraser tags in for Luke Gazdic up front for the Oil and will return to his line with Teddy Purcell and Anton Lander, while Rob Klinkhammer moves back to his usual line with Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon. Coach Todd Nelson said the Gordon line will likely see a lot of Stamkos’ unit tonight.
“It’s a strong possibility,” Nelson said. “Getting Klinkhammer with Gordon and Hendricks, if we want to use that line to maybe shut down a certain line, we’re able to and we have some flexibility. We did that a few games back and they did a good job with it.”
As a team, the Oilers will look to break their mini two-game losing skid, but they’re hoping another streak can continue, as Benoit Pouliot has found the back of the net in three straight games, including two goals on Tuesday against St. Louis. Pouliot, who was sidelined with a broken foot earlier this season, now has eight goals and 13 points in 26 games thus far.
His recent success has come playing on a line with newcomer Derek Roy and young Russian Nail Yakupov. Roy also has points in three straight games (seven points in eight games since being acquired from Nashville), and the two vets are communicating with Yakupov on the ice, helping the trio create some chemistry.
“The communication is very good, which helps our game a lot,” Pouliot said. “Derek’s been talking to Yak a lot about the game and how we should play together as a line and things have just been clicking. We find each other on the ice and have to keep it going.”
SCRIVENS STARTS AGAIN
Between the pipes, Ben Scrivens gets the nod again for the Oilers for his fourth straight start. Scrivens stopped 25 of 29 Blues shots on Tuesday, including a number of exceptional saves that kept Edmonton within striking distance. Nelson said he will look to get Viktor Fasth a start against either the Panthers or Capitals, the Oilers final two opponents on the road swing.
“If you look at last game, that first one he’d probably want to have back, but after that he settled in and played really well for us,” Nelson said of Scrivens, who also made 22 saves in Edmonton’s win over the Lightning in October. “St. Louis generated a lot of opportunities where he was there for us. We want to use both goaltenders on this road trip, but we’re taking it game by game.”
-- Ryan Frankson, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (10-25-9) at LIGHTNING (27-14-4)
TV: SNOL, SUN
Season series: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored with 3:25 left in the third period to give the Edmonton Oilers a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first game at Rexall Place. Taylor Hall scored on a penalty shot and assisted on a Justin Schultz goal for the Oilers, who are 7-6-1 against the Eastern Conference.
Oilers team scope: Forward Boyd Gordon wasn't at practice Wednesday. Matt Fraser, a healthy scratch Tuesday in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, skated on the third line with Teddy Purcell and Anton Lander. Rob Klinkhammer moved down to the fourth line with Luke Gazdic and Matt Hendricks. Edmonton has lost consecutive games after a 3-1-2 stretch. "We get a chance [Thursday] to try to get back on a winning record here and a team that we usually play pretty well against," forward Jordan Eberle told the Oilers website. "They have a lot of offense over there and a couple guys that you definitely have to key on." Forward Benoit Pouliot has four goals in his past three games.
Lightning team scope: Tampa Bay is back home for three straight and five of six to close the month after getting outscored by a combined 11-6 in road losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. Steven Stamkos scored twice against the Bruins and has four goals in his past three games. His 25 goals on the season are one behind Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars and Rick Nash of the New York Rangers for the NHL lead. Ryan Callahan has a goal in consecutive games. The Lightning are 16-4-1 at home, the best record in the Eastern Conference, and remain the highest-scoring team in the League at 3.22 goals per game.