Edmonton Oilers in tough against Tampa Bay

What did the NHL schedule maker get the Edmonton Oilers for Christmas? Only the best team in the league.

The Oilers will host the first overall Tampa Bay Lighting Saturday night at Rogers Place in the final game before the Christmas break.

The Lightning are 27-7-2 on the season and 10-0-1 in their last 11.

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“They have some elite shooters, some elite passers. You have to have five guys playing defence when we’re on defence. I think that’s the key for us,” said defenceman Adam Larsson.

The Lightning lead the NHL with 148 goals scored. They’re also on top when it comes to goal differential (+45).

“They can stretch you out. They stretch you out on attacks. They’re able to make long plays and gain zone by moving the puck great distances,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock. “They have the ability to find people outside of the coverage that put you in all kinds of trouble.”

The Oilers are have lost two in a row in lackluster performances against Vancouver and St. Louis. Despite that, they remain on the right side of the playoff cut line going into Saturday’s game. Hitchcock believes they can rise to the challenge against the Lightning.

“Both teams provide challenges for each other. Theirs are obvious. They have depth of scoring. They have a number of people that can burn you offensively.

“They play a way more mature game than they did a couple of years ago. They can come at you in waves and if you’re not ready to absorb it, they can really burn you,” explained Hitchcock. “But in the same breath, we can do that too.

“We can really lean on people. Both teams are built from puck pressure.”

Larsson was back at practice on Friday and is expected to play after sitting out Thursday’s skate.

Catch the Oilers and Lightning on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 6:30 p.m. The game will start at 8 p.m.

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