Seeking their fourth straight victory, the Edmonton Oilers kick off a four-game road trip at Amalie Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon. After a terrible start that saw the coach get fired, the team is said to be feeling a bit more like the Oilers of old, and the goals are starting to come when they need them. A perfect example was their third period comeback this week against the Seattle Kraken.
Connor Brown, signaling a comeback, took charge of the stretches during Friday’s practice and said he’s excited to get back out on the ice. He’ll be slotted in beside Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after a six-game hiatus due to a lower-body injury. He’ll also receive a nice $3.25 million bonus, this being his 10th game of the season.
Stuart Skinner, with an impressive 3-0-0 record, a 1.66 goals-against average, and a .942 save percentage in his last three games, is expected to continue tending the net. Calvin Pickard is his backup, but has yet to play a game since Jack Campbell was sent down to the AHL after clearing waivers.
Evander Kane scored a natural hat trick to close the game out versus the Kraken. He’s got the hot hand right now for the Oilers and if he remains healthy, could be back to top-notch production rates. His success as an auxiliary piece in the top six is critical. Leon Draisaitl has multiple points in multiple games, but the Oilers are still waiting for McDavid to break out.
The Oilers Tentative Line-Up:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Connor Brown
Evander Kane – Leon Draisaitl – Zach Hyman
Warren Foegele – Ryan McLeod – Derek Ryan
Adam Erne – James Hamblin – Sam Gagner/Raphael Lavoie
Darnell Nurse – Cody Ceci
Mattias Ekholm – Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak – Vincent Desharnais
The Lightning Are Dangerous
Tampa Bay hasn’t had an impressive start at 7-6-4, primarily due to the absence of perennial Vezina candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy. Nevertheless, the team boasts a strong roster featuring quality players such as Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Mikhail Sergachev. At any point, the team could break out, especially Kucherov. The Oilers will need to limit chances against, something they’ve been pretty good at doing over the last couple of games.
The Oilers have won three and lost three in head to head meetings with Tampa. But, they’ve won the last three games, whereas Tampa has lost their last three. Edmonton is clearly the hotter team right now.
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