19 periods of play, some ugly numbers; Lightning at Oilers preview

WHERE: Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)

Let's start with the ugly stat -- the numbers -- that's been following the Lightning around since they played the New York Rangers on November 24th.

You recall that game, right? The Bolts were doing everything right for two periods. They dominated the Ranges and put them in a place, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first 40 minutes of the game.

Then the third period happened. While the game ended up being a win, it was a very ugly closing period.  And since that third period, everything seems to be off, from one degree to another.

The Lightning have played exactly 19 periods of regulation hockey since the end of the 2nd period on November 24th,. 19 periods of play, allowing a total of 32 goals on 163 shots in regulation (this isn't including 6 OT shots by the Panthers in Florida's shootout win on November 27th). That means they are giving up 1.96 goals per period (on only 8.5 shots per period) and roughly 5 goals per game on average over that span. The team's save percentage is a shocking .804%.

The team is also minus-16 over that span. Even taking off the drubbings at the hands of the Bruins and the Capitals, the team has a 4.15 GAA over a 4 1/3 game span.

It's ugly, people. The record over that span may be 3-3-1, but it's damn ugly.

If the loss at the hands of the Flames taught you anything, it should be that position in the standings means nothing when it comes to Western Conference opponents. That goes doubly for tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers, who beat the Lightning last season in Tampa and still managed the worst record in the NHL in 2009-10. The Oilers are 6-2-2 in their last 10, and while things aren't perfect for them, it's a sight better than where they were last season at this point.

Meaning there is tangible hope for the future, contributing to the team right now.

Edmonton's penalty kill has been atrocious this season, though. They are stopping about 70% of opponents power plays. That ranks them dead last in the league by six whole points. Match that up against Tampa Bay's 4th ranked power play unit and chances should be there for the Lightning tonight -- as long as Edmonton players end up in the box, that is.

Meanwhile, the Bolts are ranked 6th on the PK themselves -- stopping 85.7% of opportunities It gets scary sometimes knowing they're playing so effectively short-handed and yet defensive and goaltending issues persist at even strength. Edmonton's power play is scoring 14.8% of the time.

From the St. Pete Times preview, Dan Ellis will get the nod tonight in net.

[Note by John Fontana, 12/10/10 12:21 PM EST ] former oiler Marc-Antione Pouliot has been recalled by the Lightning.  This is due to Mattias Ritola's ongoing inner-ear issues.

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