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AT THE MORNING SKATE
After taking two days to work on their fitness and hone some skills during practice, the Oilers were back in game-day mode Friday morning.
As promised, head coach Tom Renney kept Thursday's practice lines intact, matching call-ups Linus Omark and Ryan O'Marra with Ryan Jones:
Hall - Gagner - Eberle
Penner - Cogliano - Paajarvi
Jacques - Fraser - Brule
Omark - O'Marra - Jones
While O'Marra has three previous NHL games on his resume, Omark will make his debut tonight.
"Of course I'm excited," he said after the skate. "It's like when I was a kid, you dream about this and it happens tonight."
Fellow Swede Magnus Paajarvi is confident his countryman will do well.
"I know he's going to do great," he said. "He can handle his nerves. He's been playing a lot of big games and I know he plays good in the big moments as well, and I have no doubt in my mind that he's going to do well. And I like him as a friend too."
With the addition of Omark and O'Marra, Edmonton will ice five rookies tonight vs. Tampa Bay. Renney wants his young group to be comfortable and confident.
"It's not often where a young player gets to jump into a line-up like a couple of ours have and get to learn right here, at this level, and try to pull it off, but this is a unique year for the Edmonton Oilers," the coach said. "We're hoping that the learning is quick.
"We want to make sure that we give them an opportunity to succeed, that they understand what the game plan is, they understand they can play to their strengths, obviously, and they won't be held hostage for mistakes that might happen because of that," Renney added.
"We want them to do what they do best. The bottom line is the quicker they're able to sort of assimilate into our team game, naturally, the better."
LIGHTNING STRIKE PREVENTION
The rookies won't have the luxury of easing into the NHL tonight. With Tampa Bay as their opponent, the Oilers are tasked with containing some of the league's top producers in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
Defenceman Tom Gilbert knows it won't be an easy task.
"They're great players, they see the ice really well, so as much time and ice you can take away from them, the better it will be," he said. "Just try to limit their options and that's the most they can do."
With points in six of their last seven games, the Oilers are confident, Gilbert added.
"It was a great effort (last game vs. Anaheim), especially in the third period. We're finding ways to get ourselves back in games, compete hard for a full 60 minutes. That's what we're looking for. Unfortunately it was not the end that we wanted, but we're just going to keep moving forward. We're doing the things that we want to do and our team play has been great," he said.
THERE'S NO 'C' IN OILERS
The Oil will have to battle the Bolts without their captain Shawn Horcoff. The veteran centerman suffered a knee injury Tuesday night vs. the Ducks and is expected to be out for several weeks.
Renney said his staff are talking over the captaincy issue and will likely go with three associate captains tonight. He refused to name names, however.
CATCH IT LIVE!
Singles and standing room tickets are still available for tonight's game. Don't miss your chance to see the Lightning and Oilers battle at Rexall Place!
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10 -- Tampa Bay 6-3-1; Edmonton 6-2-2
Season series -- This is the only meeting of this season between the two clubs. In the lone matchup last season, the Oilers came to Tampa Bay on Dec. 9 and left with a 3-2 victory. Zack Stortini scored a Gordie Howe hat trick in the win, while Tampa Bay's Martin St Louis had a goal and an assist.
Big story -- The top picks in the 2008 and 2010 Entry Drafts, Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay and Taylor Hall of Edmonton, will face off for the first time on Friday. Stamkos, who had a great start to his season, has fallen off lately and hasn't scored in six games and has been held without a point for three straight. Hall, meanwhile, is starting to heat up. The rookie has 3 goals in his last three games.
Lightning -- If Tampa Bay follows its alternating win-loss pattern of their last four, the Bolts will be owed a win on Friday. The Lightning lost 4-2 at Calgary on Tuesday, a game Flames led 3-0 before Tampa Bay scored twice before the end of the period to get within one. Johan Harju, called up from the Norfolk Admirals on Dec. 3, scored his first career goal and Ryan Malone scored his eighth of the season.
Dan Ellis finished with 15 saves.
"It's extremely disappointing," coach Guy Boucher said. "To me it's a wasted first period. Even if we do come back, it doesn't excuse our first period and it doesn't make us worthy of winning this game."
Oilers -- Every point counts for a team that's last in the Western Conference, so when the Oilers were down 2-0 to the Ducks they fought back to get that point. Ryan Jones and Dustin Penner scored in the second half of the third period to force overtime. while Edmonton eventually fell, 3-2 in a shootout they put up a valiant effort, going 10 rounds in the shootout before Anaheim would solve Nikolai Khabibulin.
But the Oilers' biggest loss Tuesday was that of captain Shawn Horcoff, who went down with a knee injury in just his second shift. He's expected to miss several weeks.
"You have to find ways to win and overcome adversity," Renney said. "We want points so that we can make the playoffs. You never know what point or points it is going to be so we're going to make this a valuable point"
Who's hot -- Malone has been on fire for the Lightning. The left wing is riding a five-game point streak with three goals and four assists. For the Oilers, Jones has had a goal in each of his last three games.
Injury report -- Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier (right hand surgery) is still several weeks away from returning to the game, while right wing Steve Downie is out three to four weeks with an ankle injury. …
Besides Horcoff, the Oilers are without Ales Hemsky, who is out indefinitely with a groin injury.
Stat pack -- Tampa Bay has a 4-8-0 record against the Oilers in Edmonton. ...Stamkos had 21 goals and 17 assists during the team's 13-7-2 start, but has just 3 assists in six games since then.
Puck drop -- With injuries to Hemsky and Horcoff, the Oilers have recalled Linus Omark and Ryan O'Marra from the AHL Oklahoma City Barons. O'Marra -- the Islanders' first-rounder in 2005 who came in the Ryan Smyth trade in '07 -- suited up for three games for Edmonton during the 2009-10 season, but is nonetheless excited about the callup.
"It's every guy's dream playing down there to get up here, and everyone's working towards that," O'Marra told the Oilers' website. "When I got the call, I was ecstatic."
-- Magalie Lafrenière - NHL.com Staff Writer