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Oilers face Tampa at 8:00 tonight

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers wrap up a four-game homestand tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to get back in the win column.

Edmonton has dropped its last four and is looking to get back on track prior to a three-game California road trip that begins on Friday. The Oilers are in a tie with St. Louis for 10th in the Western Conference.

With eight skaters out of the lineup, the Oilers depth is going to be put to the test once again this evening. However, the injury bug does help provide some opportunity to a player like Kyle Brodziak. Recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League yesterday, Brodziak will be initially slotted in to the top line alongside Raffi Torres and Shawn Horcoff.

"This is a huge opportunity for me," said Brodziak. "A few of the young guys have shown that they can play and I want to take this chance to show I can play here and that I belong here."

Brodziak has been one of the top performers for Wilkes-Barre this season. With 21 goals and 25 assists for 46 points in 49 games, he ranks second on the Penguins in goals, assists and points.

"Hes a very good player," remarked Oilers centre Marc Pouliot. "Got a great shot, lots of goals and is a complete player. He can play physical, has a great release and can see the ice well."

On Saturday, the Oilers matched the Flames for 40 minutes but a pair of early third-period goals resulted in a 4-2 Calgary win. Despite the disappointing result, the team showed some signs of breaking out of their current funk.

"If we work like that and play a complete game like that, were going to get wins more than losses," Oilers captain Jason Smith said about the teams effort on Saturday.

Tampa Bay is in a dogfight for top spot in the Southeast Division right now. They are two points behind the Atlanta Thrashers for first with 78 points.

Last night, the Lightning fell behind early to Vancouver but Vincent Lecavaliers franchise record 43rd goal of the season while on the power play tied the game early in the second. Vancouvers Kevin Bieksa scored late in the middle frame to regain the lead for Vancouver and the Canucks added three more in the third to make the final 5-1.

"Obviously 17 shots is not good enough against a goalie like Luongo," Tampa Bays Martin St. Louis said. "You just feel like you really didn't give yourself a fair chance. We've got to generate more offense and it's got to start with putting the puck on the net."

Lightning head coach John Tortorella was also unhappy with the teams effort on the night.

"(Goaltender Johan Holmqvist) gave us a chance," he said. "We were stumbling in the third."

Tonight marks the fourth game in the Lightnings current season-long six-game road trip but prior to last nights game in Vancouver the team returned home for a day in an effort to break up the monotony.

"It gives us an opportunity, knowing how many days we are going to be out there, to get them in their own bed so we are going to grab it," said Tortorella.

The Lightning have only one win in regulation since February 13 but have a record of 5-3-2 with four overtime victories since that time. Through the first three games of the trip, they have a shootout win plus a pair of losses.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Toby Petersen (flu) is probable. Jarret Stoll (concussion) is out. Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Tom Gilbert (concussion) is doubtful. Mathieu Roy (concussion) is questionable. Petr Nedved (knee) is doubtful. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is questionable. Marty Reasoner (shoulder) is doubtful. Ales Hemsky (shoulder) is doubtful; Tampa Bay – Andreas Karlsson (finger) is out. Rob DiMaio (concussion) is out.

OILERS TO WATCH: The line of Jean-Francois Jacques, Marc Pouliot and Fernando Pisani was the Oilers best line on Saturday night against Calgary. Jacques is still looking for his first career NHL goal but hes getting closer. "Last two or three games Ive had two posts and a couple of shots barely missed," said Jacques. Pisani has scored each of the Oilers last three goals including two on Saturday and one the previous Sunday in Minnesota. Pisani now has 14 goals, four less than his total of 18 from last season.

LIGHTNING TO WATCH: Tampa Bay has one of the leagues most potent offensive attacks. Vincent Lecavalier leads the league in goals with 42 and ranks third in points with 88. His teammate, Martin St. Louis ranks second in the NHL in points with 89 and tied for third in goals with 39 With 23 goals, former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards also provides a consistent offensive threat every night and defenceman Dan Boyle is fifth in the NHL in goals for defencemen with 14 and sixth in points with 52.

FAST FACTS: Tampa is 2-5 in the second half of back-to-back games this season, having played in Vancouver last night Lecavalier and St. Louis have both been dynamite on the road. Lecavalier has 51 points while St. Louis has 50. Both players have already eclipsed St. Louis franchise mark of 47 points set in 2003-04 Tampa is 10-2-1 in its last 13 road games The Lightning has the leagues 29th ranked penalty kill at 77.7%. On the road, its even worse at 75.3% Edmonton has scored 62 goals in the third period this season and also given up that same amount.

QUOTABLE: "Vinny said he couldn't breathe and I told him, 'Vinny, for what it's worth, while you were down, neither could I.'"
- Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster after star player Vincent Lecavalier had the wind knocked out of him in practice by defenceman Shane OBrien.
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