GDB XXXI: Striking the Lightning

Tonight the Oilers will try to do something they haven’t done since November of 1988; win four straight games on the road in the same trip. That year they beat Pittsburgh 7-3 on Nov 8th, won 3-2 in OT the next night in New Jersey, crushed Toronto 6-2 on Nov 12th and then squeaked by Buffalo 5-4 in OT on the 13th.

So far the Oilers have won two games in a shootout, which is similar to the four consecutive road wins 21 years ago. In November of 2002 the Oilers won four straight road games, but they were mixed in between home games.

In their 30-year history, the Oilers have only had five seasons where they didn’t register at least one four-game winning streak. 1981 they had two three-game winning streaks, in 1994 they had won three straight three times, in the lockout season of 1995 they won three consecutive games twice, in 1996 they did it three times and the last time they didn’t register at least four straight wins was in 2000.

The Oilers have fared well at St. Pete Times Forum going 6-4-2. Ironically enough they lost the first two games they played there back in 1993, and they lost their last two trips into Tampa. Up until their loss in 2002 they went nine years without losing in Tampa.

Lightning strikes

Tonight the Bolts should be fired up. Rick Tocchet benched his top two lines in Washington two nights ago, and yesterday they had a spirited practice that involved lots of contact and some intense special teams play. Tocchet ripped his team’s effort in the loss to Washington, specifically his top guys, so expect Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis to be amped up tonight.

Stamkos scored 17 goals in the first 24 games, but he hasn’t scored in his last five. After a slow start, Lecavalier has 14 points in his last 15 games, but he only has six goals on 102 shots. He has a woeful 5.8 SH%, while St. Louis is worse at 5.4% with five goals on 92 shots. Both players will eventually break out and the Oilers are hoping it isn’t tonight.

Striking Oil

Dustin Penner continues to produce, but no one is hotter than Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky has eleven points in his last ten games, and he is on pace for his first 20-goal season. His seven goals have him tied for second amongst defenceman, but he has scored those on only 39 shots. Visnovsky has a great shot and he needs to start using it more.

For the second straight game the Oilers have the advantage on special teams, at least statistically. The Oilers are 11th on the PP and 23rd on the PK. The Lightning despite their top-end forwards are only 19th on the PP and their PK is brutal sitting 28th.

The Oilers should be able to cash in on the PP tonight because the Lighting has been shorthanded 125 times, 8th most in the NHL. The Oilers have only had to kill off 104 attempts, 7th fewest in the league. If the Oilers use their speed, the Lightning will take a lot of penalties.

Injury update

Fernando Pisani took a light skate on Monday and is feeling better. He is still at least a month away, but he’s shooting for a mid to late January return. This was the first time in three years that he has felt run down, so he doesn’t expect this to be a re-occurring problem.

Marc Pouliot has been skating for a few weeks and is about ten days away. You have to think that he will get a brief conditioning stint in Sprinfield before joining the Oilers. The Falcons play three straight next weekend, and I’ll bet if Pouliot is cleared he will suit up for all three from the 18th-20th.

The Pint

If you don’t want to watch the game on your computer the Pint has the TV feed and will be showing it tonight. They are at 10125 109th street and it is wing Wednesday as well.