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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Edmonton Oilers Preview: A foray into the fiefdom of Young King McDavid

The Lightning go to Edmonton without three of their best players to face the most exciting young superstar since Sidney Crosby.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning at Edmonton Oilers: GAME #32

Time: 10:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Rogers Place, Edmonton, AB, CA

Broadcast/Streaming: SunSports

Opponent SBNation Site: Copper & Blue

Preview:

Last night (maybe this morning depending on where you are), the Lightning lost to the Vancouver Canucks for the second time in just over a week. Last time they faced the Canucks, Tampa made Jack Skille look like Wayne Gretzky. And last night, they made Luca Sbisa look like Bobby Orr. Things are dark in Channelside. And unfortunately, nothing seems likely to change in the immediate future.

[In case this lead paragraph sent you spiraling into despair, here’s a bunny:]

The Lightning are without all three forwards from the top line that started the season. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat will all be out of the lineup again tonight. And while every team has injury issues, not many can say they’re without possibly their three best forwards.

Aside from the injuries, the Lightning remain a mess defensively. Last night, the coaching staff played the pairing of Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr more than Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. That kind of player deployment defies all attempts to explain it logically. When a team has been hammered this hard by injuries, optimizing player usage becomes even more important because the room for error is smaller than it would be normally.

As dark as things are in Channelside, they’re nowhere near the desolate wasteland of failure that the Edmonton Oilers have become over the past decade. But things are changing. The arrival of Connor McDavid as the Future Best Player in the World and the Savior of the Franchise has things looking much better for the Oilers. Even horrific front office decisions like trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson this summer haven’t been enough to prevent Young King McDavid from leading this team toward a potential playoff appearance.

McDavid (according to corsica.hockey) leads the league in total points and primary points. He’s fifth in points per 60 minutes and 8th in primary points per 60 minutes. He’s a top 20 player in impact on his team’s expected goal share. He’s everything the Oilers thought they were getting when they drafted him first overall.

Given the state of the Lightning defense, we have a good chance of seeing something magical from Young King McDavid tonight. I, like all Lightning fans, am hoping they can somehow replicate what they were able to do in Calgary and find another win on this road trip. But if this game goes the way it looks like it might, just lock your eyes on to McDavid and enjoy watching the future best player in the league continue to write his legend.

Comparison chart:

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Cory Conacher - Tyler Johnson - Erik Condra

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Vlad Namestnikov

J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Joel Vermin

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralmann

Andrej Sustr - Jason Garrison

Slater Koekkoek - Braydon Coburn

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Edmonton Oilers

Forward Lines

Milan Lucic - Connor McDavid - Drake Caggiula

Patrick Maroon - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot - Leon Draisaitl - Jesse Puljujarvi

Tyler Pitlick - Mark Letestu - Zack Kassian

Defense Pairings

Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera - Kris Russel

Brandon Davidson - Eric Gryba

Line information is subject to change at the Coaches’ whims.