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Despite being all but out of the playoff race (barring a miracle), the Tampa Bay Lightning need a victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. Unless this team wants to absolutely tank the rest of the season, which is unlikely based on the culture Yzerman and Boucher have created, a victory is imperative for confidence and getting back on the right track. Let’s be honest here, it doesn’t get much easier than the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have a weak defense, shaky goaltending and a small offensive line. If the Bolts play well, they shouldn’t have a problem in this game. Let’s take a look at some pre-game notes and, as always, Mike’s Three Keys to the Game.

Pre-Game Notes

* With one more goal, Steven Stamkos will tie a career high of 51. It’s remarkable how he has been able to score so consistently this season despite the team’s enigmatic play. Going up against the D-weak Oilers shouldn’t be a problem for #91. This is a great opportunity for him to tie, and possible set a career high. You can bet that Marty St. Louis will be feeding him the puck all night long in an attempt to get him there.

* Dustin Tokarski has been reassigned to the Norfolk Admirals meaning that Dwayne Roloson will be getting the start against his former Oilers. If the rest of the team can play well, Dwayne Roloson shouldn’t have a lot of problems in this one. He knows some of the guys on the Oilers’ roster from his time in Edmonton and he’ll be mentally prepared. Hopefully he can string together a couple good performances down the stretch.

* Speaking of Tokarski. While the team didn’t play that well in front of him, Tokarski’s short stint with the big club re-affirmed my belief that he is not the savior that this team is looking for in net. In a few years, he could be a good goalie in the NHL, but until then he really needs to work on his consistency. In time, with hard work, it should all come together for the young netminder. Hopefully he can go back to Norfolk and help them continue the magical ride they are on right now (18 in a row…)

* The line-up is riddled with injuries right now. I’d be interesting to look up the statistics and find out if any team has lost more man games to injury than the Tampa Bay Lightning. Vinny and Ohlund have been gone for a while but now it’s Garon, Thompson, Hall and Shannon too. Things just didn’t want to go the Lightning’s way this year. Hopefully the guys can come back healthy and rested next year as the Bolts make a push for the playoffs. It’s going to be mighty exciting to follow this team through the draft, and free agency.

Mike’s Three Keys to the Game

1) Push Around the Small Oiler Forwards
If there’s one thing that this Lightning team has going for it right now, it’s size on the blue line. Keith Aulie, Brian Lee, Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer and Mike Commodore (who most likely will not play) are all huge guys. With the Edmonton Oilers boasting guys like Hemsky, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins (Taylor Hall out with concussion), the Bolts should have a great opportunity to dictate the physical style of this game. Pound the Oiler forwards, take the puck and move it up ice. It’s a pretty simple game plan for Guy Boucher to draw up.

2) Test the Oilers Goaltending
Unless Tom Renney decides to give the Khabibulin the start for sentimental reasons, there isn’t a reason to think that Dubnyk won’t be starting. Out of the two, he is far superior. That said, he still has been known to give up the odd softie once in a while. If the Bolts can test him early, and often, they should have a great chance to win. The Western Conference may have some great players, and more complete players than the Eastern Conference, but nobody matches Steven Stamkos when it comes to sniping goals. Dubnyk best be prepared!

3) Use the Home Crowd
There are only ten games left in the season; the Bolts need to give this home town crowd something to cheer about. Losers of three straight, the Bolts know that a win is both important for them, and the fans. We’ve supported this team all season long and it would be really nice to go out on a high note this year after all the trials and tribulations. With the home town crowd on their side, the Bolts should have great energy and jump coming out of the gate.

Well folks, there you have it, the game preview for Thursday’s tilt against the Edmonton Oilers. It should be a fast-paced, hard-checking game full of offensive chances and lots of goals. If you’re heading to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for this one, you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter: @BoltsBuzz
Filed Under:   tampa   bay   lightning   edmonton   oilers   preview  
March 23, 2012 6:01 PM ET | Delete
March 23, 2012 6:03 PM ET | Delete
Wow, I can comment here. Banning is such sweet sorrow. We won, we won, we won. As far as the debate over there<-------. Stamkos by a hair.
March 23, 2012 7:07 PM ET | Delete
rumors are flying around that Yzerman may try and trade for Cory Schneider maybe only weeks after the playoffs are over. I'm thinking he wants a goalie as soon as possible to get a head start in july on free agents.
March 23, 2012 7:15 PM ET | Delete
I've seen quotes that he is mighty upset with his situation in net.
March 23, 2012 11:11 PM ET | Delete
I would be too judging by a 3.5 million dollar cardboard cut-out we have right now. Schnieder is a long shot, I would look to Harding as amore likely candidate.
March 23, 2012 11:31 PM ET | Delete
I think Schnieder is Yzerman's first choice with maybe Harding as a back up plan Artyukhin
March 24, 2012 12:58 AM ET | Delete
I've been told that Schneider is the number one target. Also heard that from a few media outlets as well. The thought is that all Yzerman's moves were in an attempt for Schneider. Harding will go UFA so based on Yzerman's moves, I think Schneider is the guy.
March 24, 2012 1:26 AM ET | Delete
It would be sweet to have Schneider / Garon next year! then fix holes in FA we would be back in a big way.
March 24, 2012 10:27 AM ET | Delete
There looking for a big LW right? How about throwing a "show me" contract to Dustin Penner? 1 to 1.5 for a big winger. Our defense needs to shed Clark, Bergeron and Ohlund. Addition could be done via AHL like Barbeiro or Gudas.
March 24, 2012 4:05 PM ET | Delete
Honestly, with the additions at the trade deadline our defense is pretty alright looking for next season. I wouldn't mind giving Dustin Penner that contract. Goaltending is the big issue now!
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Blog Archive

01 Lightning News and Notes to Start December
02 Why Bolts Must Get Into Bobby Ryan Trade Discussions
02 Breaking News: Lightning Make Minor Trade with Panthers
03 10 Bold Predictions for Rangers vs. Lightning Game
04 Lightning Lose to Rangers: My Prediction Round Up
06 Simply Embarassing: Lightning Drop 5th Straight to Islanders
08 Lightning Beat Rangers to End Losing Streak - Mixed Bag
10 The 1-3-1 Returns: Flyers Take on Bolts at Wells Fargo
11 Lightning Fall to Flyers: The Slot Looks Like a Drive-Thru
12 From Bad to Worse + Lightning Sign Miettinen
14 Lightning Talk: Defensemen to Target in Free Agent Frenzy
14 Scenario
15 Bolts Squeeze By Flames Thanks to Dominant Second Period
17 Lightning Should Make a Push for Shea Weber
18 Bolts Down Blue Jackets + Rumor Round-Up
20 Why the Lightning WILL make the Playoffs This Season
22 Lightning Embarrassed by Sharks in San Jose: U-G-L-Y
22 Tampa Bay Lightning: I Want Your Opinions
23 Bolts vs. Avalanche: A Long-Winded Game Preview
24 Bolts Lose to Avalanche in Goalie Battle + Rumor Round-Up
25 Risky Business: Victor Hedman and Other Top-5 D-Men
26 Flyers vs. Bolts Shaping Up to be a Great Game -- Preview
27 Next 6 Games Vital for Lightning + My Predictions
27 Bryzgalov Shaky as Lightning Beat Up on Flyers
29 A Tale of Two Underperforming Teams: Bolts vs. Canadiens
29 A V for Vinny, a V for Victory: Bolts Down Habs 4-3
30 Bolts/Canes Preview + HB Hotstove Response + Rumor Update
31 Lightning Defeat 'Canes 5-2 on Phil Esposito Night