PREVIEW: Oilers at Lightning
Oilers look to build on Tuesday's win with a game in Tampa
|TV: Sportsnet Oilers (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 5:38 p.m. MST
INSIDE THE OILERSTaylor Hall returns to the lineup tonight, Omark recalled, line combinations, Eakins talks Yakupov trade rumours and more.
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The Oilers skated at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday morning prior to tonight's contest against the Lightning.
AT THE MORNING SKATE
Ben Eager and Will Acton did some extra work after practice, meaning that both Taylor Hall and Linus Omark would draw in and play.
Hall has been out since October 22 with a knee injury.
"It's good that I didn't miss the 4 weeks that were planned. If I felt good enough to play I knew I had to play," said Hall following the skate. At practice yesterday I felt ready to go. I was planning to play Saturday but felt good enough to go today."
The original prognosis for Hall was that he would be out four weeks but the left winger always felt that he would be back in the lineup sooner than that.
"I had a feeling I'd be back sooner. I had a goal of 3 weeks when it first happened and I'm back even sooner than that."
He does have to wear a knee brace the rest of the season, however.
"It's fine. It's a little clunky but it feels good on my knee."
Coach Eakins was happy to have Hall back in the lineup. In nine games this season, Hall has eight points (3g, 5a).
"He's been cleared to play and he will play," announced the head coach, adding that he's not averse to playing him for big minutes. "How he's going and how the team is going will determine how much ice time he gets tonight."
Based on the comments of coach Eakins, Smyth will play centre on the fourth line alongside Ryan Jones and Luke Gazdic.
"We'll start with Ryan Smyth (at centre on the fourth line) but I'm not averse to any of our centres playing down on the fourth line."
The head coach added that it was not an easy decision to scratch Acton and Eager.
"Both played hard but we've got one of the best left wingers coming into the lineup and Arcobello putting up points," Eakins remarked.
"Hall is going to play with Gagner and Yakupov," the head coach said.
The team's other two lines are likely to be the Hemsky, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle line that was successful on Tuesday as well as Linus Omark with Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon.
LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE FOR OMARK
Linus Omark made his initial Oilers debut in a memorable game several years ago against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Omark's spin move at centre ice prior to scoring a shootout goal helped lead Edmonton to the win.
"It seems like it's always the Lightning," Omark laughed.
Yesterday, coach Eakins stressed that Omark needs to buy in to the team's defensive strategy to stay on the team. That was something that Omark acknowledged today.
"I need to play my game, be responsible with the puck on defence too," he said.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (4-10-2) at LIGHTNING (10-4-0)
TV: SNET-OILERS, SUN
Last 10: Edmonton 3-6-1; Tampa Bay 7-3-0
Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning. In their most recent matchup, on March 22, 2012, Teddy Purcell scored in the sixth round of a shootout to lead the Lightning past the Oilers 3-2 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Big story: The Lightning sit first in the Atlantic Division (20 points in one fewer game than the Toronto Maple Leafs and two fewer games than the Detroit Red Wings), but on Thursday they'll be tasked with slowing down Oilers rookie sensation Mark Arcobello.
Oilers: There was a sense of relief and quite a bit of satisfaction after Edmonton snapped a five-game skid Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime win against the Florida Panthers. The Oilers let a 3-1 lead slip in the third period but recovered when Arcobello scored on the power play at 1:55 of OT.
It was Arcobello's second goal of the game, the first two of his NHL career, but even before he found the back of the net he had a team-leading 10 assists. The Oilers also got a lift from defenseman Taylor Fedun, who scored in his NHL debut.
"It was big for confidence there," Arcobello said of scoring his initial goal. "I've had my fair share of chances so far this year. I've been squeezing the stick a little bit too tight. To finally get that first one was big."
Lightning: While not quite the overnight sensation the Colorado Avalanche have been over in the Western Conference, there's an undeniable buzz around Tampa Bay regarding the way the Lightning have turned their fortunes over the season's first five weeks. They have yet to lose consecutive games and enter Thursday seeking their third win in a row.
Tampa Bay has been particularly tough against the West, which continued in Saturday's 4-2 victory against the St. Louis Blues. With the score knotted in the third, Brett Connolly's first of the season put the Lightning in front to stay and Valtteri Filppula tacked on some late insurance.
"That's a good team over there and we kept it going in the third period and kind of took over," said Ben Bishop, who stopped 28 shots. "I thought it was a little bit of a measuring stick for us."
Who's hot: Boyd Gordon set up three goals for the Oilers on Tuesday, including Arcobello's in overtime. … Steven Stamkos has six goals and four assists in the past six games for the Lightning. Alex Killorn has two goals and three assists in the past two games.
Injury report: Edmonton goaltender Richard Bachman (lower body), defensemen Anton Belov (lower body) and Justin Schultz (groin) and forwards Steve MacIntyre (knee), David Perron (neck), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Jesse Joensuu (back) and Taylor Hall (knee) have been sidelined. … Tampa Bay defenseman Brian Lee (knee) and forward Tom Pyatt (collarbone) are out indefinitely.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com