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OILERS at LIGHTNING - GET THE SCOOP
AT THE MORNING SKATE Tampa, FL - The Edmonton Oilers look to continue what has been an impressive string of four games without a regulation loss (3-0-1) tonight when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The game will feature a couple of familiar faces in net. For the Oilers, Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start -- his first game back in Tampa since Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.
"We need to make sure our goaltenders both can play, Dubby's had some pretty good activity the last few games. Khabby is a top notch goaltender. It's nice to be able to line up the dots where he can come back here and play where he won a Stanley Cup, obviously," said Renney. "Bottom line is we want a good performance tonight from our goaltender"
For Khabibulin, the arena -- and the city itself, in fact -- brings back a lot of great memories.
"It feels good. It brings back a lot of memories. I'm pretty excited," he said. "As soon as you land. The airport's the same. You land and get on the bus. A lot of stuff is still the same. I remember a lot."
The Cup Finals were almost eight years ago for Khabibulin. It is an oddity that he has only been to the building once and never played a game until tonight.
"I was here only once," said Khabibulin. "I didn't play that game. And a couple other times I had an injury and didn't make the trip."
In his one chance to play, then head coach Trent Yawney felt it would be better if the veteran netminder didn't play as the Blackhawks were doing back-to-back nights.
"We had a back-to-back and the coach said to sit back, relax and enjoy the night. I said okay."
His one chance to have played the Bolts with the Oilers was in 2009 but he was already injured and out for the season at that point.
"I didn't think it would take that long but it is what it is. Finally I get to start a game here."
Former Oilers netminder Dwayne Roloson gets the nod for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay comes into the game banged up, but Renney cautioned that the Oilers cannot take them lightly.
"First thing you do is circle four or five names that are outstanding hockey players in this league period. They're world class players to say the least and if we don't pay attention to that first and foremost and bring a level of respect at least where you punch the clock, you're in trouble anyway," the head coach began.
"Play hard, pay attention to our own game plan let them have to adjust to whatever we might be doing because honestly at this stage of the season it's all about us."
Andy Sutton makes his return to the lineup for the Oilers after missing a pair as a healthy scratch.
"It's great," said Sutton. "There's not that many games left. It's always great to be in the lineup."
Despite being the odd-man out every now and then due to the fact the team is carrying eight defencemen, Sutton has maintained a positive outlook.
"It's something I've always worked on. Got a great life and have to keep things in perspective. I'm 37 years old and still in the NHL which is awesome."
Renney added that having a player like Sutton he can work into the lineup is a bonus but said he wanted to ensure that everyone on the team is fully earning their ice time.
"You want your guys to experience this down the stretch and realize how much they dislike playing in a position outside the playoffs and how hard they have to play and get acquainted to playing moving forward."
Theo Peckham draws out.
For Hall, it's just part of the process says coach Renney.
"Well he's not ready clearly, so the bottom line is having him with us gives us the chance to evaluate it on a day to day basis and that's pretty much where we are with him, it's day-to-day.".
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Last 10: Edmonton 4-4-2, Tampa Bay 4-5-1
Season Series: One and done for these two. The Oilers won the last meeting between the teams, 4-3 in a shootout at Rexall Place on Dec. 10, 2010, and have taken the last three games after Tampa Bay won the previous four.
Big Story: The Lightning are theoretically still in the Eastern Conference race, but they've lost six of seven to fall nine points behind the eighth-seeded Capitals with 10 games to go. The Oilers' fate was decided long ago, but they're 3-0-1 in their last four games they've had some fun influencing the order of things in the Western Conference with some well-timed wins over playoff contenders.
Oilers: They're becoming a team nobody wants to face down the stretch. They've dealt setbacks to the Sharks, Flames and Predators and will have the opportunity to mess up a few more teams before they go home for the summer. The Preds went into Tuesday's home matchup poised to put some room between themselves and the Red Wings for fourth place in the West and ran into a buzz saw. Ales Hemsky scored his first career hat trick while he and his teammates chased Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne from the nets in a 6-3 win. It was not unlike the pasting they gave Rinne in a 6-2 win on Nov. 22.
"It's nice to see the results for those guys working hard and staying with it," said coach Tom Renney, whose team is 5-1-1 in its last seven road games. "It's not been an easy season for us, but it is a season that we continue to grow through and be better for in the long run."
Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 41 shots and appears to be working his way towards the No. 1 role, having played 13 of the last 17 games. Renney has begun to look at him that way.
"Yes, you do ... in fairness to (Nikolai Khabibulin) and our circumstance that's what you need. For our team to grow and move forward, you need that type of goaltending from somebody and certainly Devan provided that in Nashville," Renney told the Edmonton Journal.
Lightning: The lineup is gutted by injuries, and the active roster is full of inexperienced players, but the Lightning refuse to fall back on either as the cause of their 7-2 pummeling at the hands of the desperate Sabres on Monday.
"We didn't show up. We didn't battle," defenseman Bruno Gervais said to the Tampa Bay Times. "We need to get better. We need to take some pride and bounce back for the next game." He was pointing to turnovers and defensive breakdowns that led to Buffalo goals and an embarrassing home-ice performance for the Bolts. They bounced back from it with a rigorous practice on Tuesday.
"We still have to take pride in our game," defenseman Victor Hedman said to the Times. "If we play loose like that these next 10 games we're going to be embarrassed."
Who's Hot: With the hat trick, Hemsky has four goals in his last two games after scoring one goal in his previous 29. Dubnyk has gotten attention thanks in part to a 12-8-2 record since Jan. 1, including three wins in his last four starts, including a shutout.
Injury Report: Taylor Hall (concussion) has been skating with the team and could be back in action during the team's current road trip but the Oilers are following protocol and not rushing. Forward Lennart Petrell left Tuesday's game with a groin injury and may return during the trip. … Lightning forward Ryan Shannon is officially out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a right shoulder injured last Saturday. Nate Thompson and Adam Hall are still day-to-day with upper-body injuries, while goalie Mathieu Garon (groin) and Vinny Lecavalier (hand) have had no change in status.
Stat Pack: Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, the NHL's goal-scoring leader with 50, hasn't had a point in three games, a season high. Rookie Goalie Dustin Tokarski was pulled from a second straight start against the Sabres and was sent down to Norfolk on Tuesday.
Puck Drop: The Bolts' current seven-game homestand was supposed to be the final push to the playoffs. Instead, at 1-4-0, it has turned into a nightmarish slide out of contention. Still, they haven't given up yet.
"Everything matters," coach Guy Boucher said on the team website. "Everything we do today matters for tomorrow, it matters for next year, it matters for the team, it matters for the organization and it matters for the fans. I really truly believe that you can gain something every day. I understand things have been tough for us, but we have to maintain a very high standard of not just play, but character, work ethic and attitude. It's not about winning right now. It's about giving every single ounce of energy and being the best we can be for the fans so it's worth their money."
-- Matthew Mankiewich, NHL.com
|Mar 22 '12||EDM 2 at TBL 3 - SO||T. Purcell|
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