The fading Tampa Bay Lightning will try to avoid losing for the seventh time in eight games when they host the Edmonton Oilers tonight at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Lightning were within one victory of making the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, but have been all but eliminated from the Eastern Conference race thanks in part to a 1-5-1 stretch over their last seven games. The Bolts are now nine points out of a playoff spot with just 10 games left on their schedule.
Tampa Bay had a chance to boost its playoff hopes during its current seven- game homestand, but the Lightning are just 1-4 on the residency so far. The fifth portion of the stand was a blowout loss, as Buffalo slammed the Lightning, 7-3, on Monday. The setback dropped Tampa Bay to 21-14-2 as the host this season.
Ryan Malone and Bruno Gervais each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, while Dustin Tokarski started the game for Tampa Bay and stopped 11-of-15 shots. Dwayne Roloson turned aside 20-of-23 shots in relief.
"Come to work every day until [the season's] done. We owe it to one another to not give in and play hard," said Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis.
Tokarksi was sent down to Norfolk of the AHL on Tuesday and Sebastien Caron could see his first action for the Lightning tonight. Caron, who last played in the NHL in 2007, was signed by Tampa Bay on Monday after playing this season in the German Elite League.
The Oilers are on the brink of being officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they still slammed the Predators, 6-3, in Tuesday's game at Nashville. Ales Hemsky recorded his first career hat trick to lift the Oilers to the easy win at Bridgestone Arena.
Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan Jones and Sam Gagner also tallied goals for Edmonton, which won for the third time in four games, but is 18 points out of a playoff spot in the West with nine games left. Devan Dubnyk made 41 saves in the victory.
"They are a very good team over there and had us on our heels in the third period," said Edmonton head coach Tom Renney. "But we got some great goaltending there and we're able to get out of here with the win."
Edmonton is playing the second test of a four-game road trip tonight and is just 11-21-3 as the guest this season.
The Oilers have taken three straight from Tampa, but the clubs last met each other on Dec. 10, 2010 in Edmonton. The Lightning have lost 12 of 17 against the Oilers overall and Edmonton has claimed six of its last eight games in Tampa.