NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, December 9th (All times eastern)
Edmonton Oilers (13-13-4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (11-10-8), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - A long road trip seems to be just what the Edmonton Oilers needed to get back on track after an extended rut. The resurgent club gets a chance to extend its current winning streak to a season-best four games in tonight's clash with the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning from St. Pete Times Forum.
Edmonton began this six-game trek with a lopsided 7-3 defeat at Vancouver on November 28, its 14th loss in a span of 18 outings, but has since turned things around with victories over Detroit, Dallas and Florida. The Oilers bested the Panthers in a shootout on Monday, with Robert Nilsson and Shawn Horcoff netting goals in the deciding phase to lift the team to a 3-2 decision.
Horcoff, who had the game-winning tally in Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over Dallas, played the hero once again when he squeezed a backhander past Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun in the third round. The veteran center also had the Oilers' first goal of the game, a power-play marker in the second period that helped back a 33-save effort from Jeff Deslauriers.
"He's been hot the last couple," Oilers coach Pat Quinn said of Horcoff. "The other night he wanted to shoot. Tonight we just put him in because he was good the other night."
Lubomir Visnovsky contributed a pair of assists to Monday's triumph and has now notched 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) over his last 10 games. The Oilers, who conclude this so-far successful swing Friday in St. Louis, will be attempting to string together four straight wins for the first time since October 12-18 of last season.
Edmonton will be facing a Tampa Bay team that suffered its fifth loss in six games after being shut out by powerhouse Washington on Monday. Capitals netminder Semyon Varlamov stopped all 26 shots he faced in the 3-0 verdict.
Mike Smith stopped 31-of-34 chances between the pipes for the Lightning, with two of his goals allowed coming off the stick of Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin in the reigning Hart Trophy winner's return from a two-game suspension.
"We really neutralized him really well I thought, then you give him one two- on-one and when he's got one...he's going to score every time," said Tampa Bay defenseman Kurtis Foster of Ovechkin.
Smith was coming off a 30-save performance in Saturday's 4-0 win over the New York Islanders, which opened up a three-game homestand for the Lightning. Following tonight's tilt, Tampa Bay will play six consecutive times on the road.
The Lightning had defeated the Oilers four straight times until receiving a 5-3 loss in Edmonton last February. The Oilers have dropped two in a row at the Forum since posting a 3-2 win there on March 6, 2002.
12/09 10:59:11 ET