EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers hope a recent trend continues with regards to confidence on home ice. They have won two straight at Rexall Place, and when it comes to their recent success against Tampa Bay, it has also come here in Edmonton.
The home team in this series has won each of the last five times the Lightning and Oilers have met. Edmonton has won two of their last three games against Tampa Bay.
But each season is different. For the Oilers, they’re just focused on keeping the confidence in Edmonton at a high and continuing to play responsibly.
“I think we’re taking care of things defensively, limiting teams’ chances,” said Teddy Purcell. “Any time your goalie gets on a nice roll it’s good to see. we’ve played checking games but it’s nice to find a way to come out on the good side of wins.”
After dropping their first two games of this homestand, Edmonton has two straight victories.
“We started off with a couple losses here and it was nice to come back with some good efforts and two wins,” said Purcell. “It’s going to be another tough test tonight. I think we’re going to see a really good test in Tampa. I don’t think they were happy with their game in Calgary so we know they’re going to respond and we’ve got to be sharp early.”
Following a 1-0 overtime win vs. Carolina, the team talked about how they have tried to play a more tight-checking game. They’ll need that tonight against a potentially dangerous group.
“I think every team in the league now, they’re so detailed, there’s so much video that it’s always hard to generate a lot of offence,” said Purcell. “We definitely don’t want to get into a track meet with those guys. They have a lot of guys who can make plays and they can burn you pretty quick, whether it’s off the rush or off turnovers or on their special teams. We’ve just got to play our game, play the way we have the past couple of games and try to make it as difficult as we can on them.”
Even when Steven Stamkos isn’t on, he’s still a threat. That’s something the Oilers know all too well.
“He’s dangerous,” Purcell said of his former teammate. “I think he’ll be the first to admit, even when he doesn’t have his best game he could have two shots and have two goals. He’s always a threat when he’s on the ice. He has a lot of speed. They have a real good power play so we have to be disciplined and be aware of him tonight.”
Head Coach Todd McLellan says he sees the Lightning starting to come together and get going. Stamkos is a part of that, with eight points in his last eight games.
“They’re starting to find their game, so that presents speed, quickness and skill problems and then obviously Stamkos, whether he’s in the middle or on the wing, he’s dangerous in any of those spots and his ability to shoot,” said McLellan. “Their D are quite active all over the rink, not only on the entries but in the offensive zone they roam around pretty good. Then their goaltender has incredible size, but his ability to handle and move the puck on any type of weak or careless dumps, he often plays like a third defenceman. There’s a lot of challenges there for us.”
The Oilers did some pre-scouting on the Lightning and focused on Stamkos for specific segments.
“He’s so lethal out there,” said Taylor Hall. “We had a 10-minute power-play meeting just to try and key on him tonight and what we can do to stop him on the power play. It’s always fun to play guys like that but we’ve got to stop him in the end.”
Cam Talbot was the first goaltender off the ice for the Oilers and is expected to start his fifth straight game and seventh of the last eight.
Iiro Pakarinen returns to the lineup after missing the last three games. Pakarinen was sandwiched between two players in the Oilers game against Los Angeles and hit his head.
“I feel great,” said Pakarinen. “It was a little bit (of a) tough time after that hit, but I feel really good and I’m ready to go.”
Pakarinen replaces Jujhar Khaira in the lineup, who was assigned to Bakersfield yesterday.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
LIGHTNING (19-17-4) at OILERS (17-21-3)
TV: SUN, SNW
Season series: The Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning each won their home game last season by a 3-2 score. Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the winning goal with 3:25 remaining at Rexall Place on Oct. 20, 2014. Lightning forward Ondrej Palat scored twice in the third period to rally Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena on Jan. 15, 2015.
Lightning team scope: Forward Ryan Callahan, who left with a lower-body injury in the second period against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, took part in line rushes at practice Thursday and coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times he should be able to play. Forward Vladislav Namestnikov was promoted to the top line alongside Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula, the latter of whom has a four-game point streak (one goal, four assists). Defenseman Anton Stralman has points in four straight (one goal, four assists). The Lightning lost 3-1 to the Flames to begin a four-game road trip. "When we play to our strengths, we're a good team in this League," Stamkos told the Times. "When we don't -- when we stand around, don't execute, can't make a pass -- you're a below-average team, and it shows."
Oilers team scope: Edmonton is looking for its third straight win at Rexall Place following a seven-game home winning streak earlier this season. "We just seem more comfortable," forward Taylor Hall told the Oilers website after practice Thursday. "It seems like we start games a lot better. We don't wait for the other team to come in here and dictate how the game's going to go, we just kind of go and play." Forward Matt Hendricks missed practice Wednesday but it wasn't injury-related and he was back on the ice Thursday. Injured forwards Connor McDavid (collarbone) and Nail Yakupov (ankle) skated on a line with Jujhar Khaira. Yakupov, who hasn't played since Nov. 25, will travel on Edmonton's upcoming road trip and is expected back in the lineup prior to the All-Star break, coach Todd McLellan said.