Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, TNT, TVAS, SNO, SNW, SNP
Opponent SBNation Site: Copper And Blue
The Tampa Bay Lightning hadn’t been hit by the COVID-19 outbreaks as much as the other teams in the NHL, that’s why while the other teams were playing games, which were rescheduled from the last December, the Lightning’s players have been enjoying relatively longer breaks. This is adding a new challenge for the Bolts, who now need to stay in shape, despite playing in just four games over the last three weeks. This unusual situation, however, ends tonight with the game against the Edmonton Oilers, as the schedule is finally returning in its normal flow.
If you need a quick catch up on the current situation in the league, the Lightning are still in the second place in the Atlantic Division after 49 games of the regular season. The gap between them and the leading Florida Panthers has recently increased to five points, but the team is comfortably sitting in the playoff spot and leading the Toronto Maple Leafs, who is slowly emerging as the potential first-round opponent, by three points.
After struggling most of the season to get together all of their best players at the same time on the ice due to multiple injuries, the Bolts managed to get very close to their optimal line-up in the previous game against the New Jersey Devils. The only missing player now is Zach Bogosian, who’s expected to return early March.
The Lightning also seem to continue switching lines, which helped them to overcome New Jersey last week. At yesterday’s practice, Anthony Cirelli centered Ross Colton and Taylor Raddysh on the fourth line, while Mathieu Joseph returned to the second line. Boris Katchouk remains the odd-man out on the current line-up, mixing in on the fourth line.
Meanwhile a weird season for the Edmonton Oilers continues. The team has gone through a very turbulent phase this season: the Oilers were at the top of the league by the end of November, but went into a deep slump in December and first half of January, winning just two games over that span. The Oilers, however, managed to climb back to the playoff recently with a 6-3-1 record. Not everyone survived that fall to the bottom of the league: the Oilers fired their coach Dave Tippett on February 10, naming Jay Woodcroft as their new coach. The Oilers also tried their luck signing a very controversial player, Evander Kane, who has been useful on the ice for them so far though, scoring nine points in 11 games.
The biggest problem for the Oilers remains their exceptionally unbalanced forward core. Their two biggest stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl already combined for 141 points this season and leading third-best scorer on their team, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, by more than 30 points. The Oilers are still struggling to find a secondary scoring outside of first two lines and if neither McDavid nor Draisaitl don’t record any points in the game, the team usually ends up losing.
Another problem for Edmonton is their goaltending. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are one of the weakest tandems in the league — both goalies are deeply under the water in goals saved above expected this season.
This is the first game between the Lightning and the Oilers this season and the first game since the 2019-20 regular season for them. In the only game that season, the Lightning defeated the Oilers at Amalie Arena 3-1 thanks to goals by Pat Maroon, Yanni Gourde and Cedric Paquette.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Mathieu Joseph
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Ross Colton - Anthony Cirelli - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Edmonton Oilers Projected Lines
Ryan McLeod - Connor McDavid - Zach Hyman
Evander Kane - Leon Draisaitl - Kailer Yamamoto
Warren Foegele - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Derek Ryan
Devin Shore - Colton Sceviour - Tyler Benson
Darnell Nurse - Evan Bouchard
William Lagesson - Cody Ceci
Markus Niemelainen - Tyson Barrie