Tampa Bay Lightning at Edmonton Oilers game preview

BY Padrick Brewer and The Sports Xchange • December 18, 2016

TV: FOX Sports Sun


Time: Pregame coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.


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EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Oilers will feature something old and something new when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

The old: Coach Todd McLellan has reunited NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid (39 points) with Milan Lucic (22 points) and Jordan Eberle (23 points) as the Oilers' No. 1 line. That trio was together at the start of the season and has been brought back together. McDavid has just one point in his last three games; Eberle is pointless in his last two. So, this move is about recharging players the Oilers need to score.

"He's (McDavid) a fun player to play with," said Eberle. "I think we're just trying to find some chemistry again. I think we started off the season pretty well and we've played a lot together. We know each other's tendencies and it should be good."

The new: The Oilers called up Taylor Beck from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif; Beck leads the AHL in scoring, with 30 points so far this season.

"He'll probably play in the bottom six, but he's a big body that protects pucks well and, right now, he's got it going offensively at that level," said McLellan. "It doesn't always parlay into the National Hockey League level, but he feels good about his game offensively, and the other side of the puck as well."

The Oilers have lost five out of their last seven, but three of those defeats have come in either overtime or the shootout. Getting a couple of extra goals into the lineup could mean a lot to a team that plays a lot of close games.

The Oilers also had the luxury of three off days since Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets.

"We're fresh, we're energized and we got to polish some things up," said McLellan.

While the Oilers have had some time to rest, the NHL schedule maker hasn't been kind to the Lightning. The team won in Calgary on Wednesday night. But, instead of making the easy trip north to Edmonton, the Lightning got on the 90-minute flight to Vancouver, lost 4-2 to the Canucks Friday night, then have to jet back to Alberta to face the Oilers Saturday.

Zig-zagging makes a tough trip through Western Canada even tougher. As well, Nikita Kucherov is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He missed Wednesday's win over Calgary and Friday's loss to Vancouver. Kucherov leads the Lightning with 30 points. With sniper Steven Stamkos out long-term, the Lightning are piecing together their offensive pieces.

Left winger Ondrej Palat also missed the Vancouver game after suffering an undisclosed injury against Calgary.

"We're on an unfortunate run of late, coming down with our injuries," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "If there's ever a time for guys to step up, it's right now.

"We've got to get our strength here, because we're playing an Edmonton team that hasn't played since Tuesday."

Defenseman Anton Stralman said it will be up to the blueliners to be the ones who do that stepping up.

"It doesn't matter how good an offense you have unless you have the defense to carry out things in the back. We build a lot of offense from our defending, too."


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