Winless Oilers battle Lightning

( – The Edmonton Oilers will try again to win their first
game of the season when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Monday’s battle
at Rexall Place.

The Oilers are 0-4-1, matching the team’s worst ever start to a season. The
1992-93 club set a club record with four losses and a tie to begin the season,
and Edmonton can surpass that dubious mark if it loses again tonight.

It’s a disheartening start for an Oilers team that has missed the playoffs in
eight straight seasons since making a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals
in 2006. If Edmonton’s season-opening funk gets much worse it could cost head
coach Dallas Eakins his job despite the fact Eakins was hired in the summer of
2013 and only is in the second season of a four-year deal.

Edmonton is allowing 4.80 goals per game so far this season, but the club did
put forth a better defensive effort in its latest setback, losing 2-0 on
Friday against the visiting Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers had surrendered five
goals or more in each game before the close setback versus the Canucks.

Ben Scrivens allowed just one goal on 29 shots in the setback, but his team
was shut out for the first time this season.

“We have to find a way to come out on top,” Scrivens said. “Despite us playing
better, we have to push through and find a way.”

Monday’s contest is the second tilt of a seven-game homestand for the Oilers,
who won’t play their next road game until visiting Philadelphia on Nov. 4.
Edmonton was just 16-22-3 as the visiting team in 2013-14.

Edmonton has fared well against the Lightning in recent years, winning its
last three home games in this series and taking four of the past six
encounters overall. Tampa’s last win at Rexall Place came in a 3-1 victory on
March 7, 2007, when Lightning star Steven Stamkos was still in his first
season of junior hockey.

Stamkos fueled a Tampa Bay victory in the club’s most recent outing, posting
two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 4-2 win at Vancouver. The Canucks
entered the game with a 3-0 record before the Bolts handed them their first
loss of the season.

The score was tied at 2-2 in the second period before Ryan Callahan scored the
go-ahead goal with 3:12 remaining in the middle stanza. Alex Killorn also
lit the lamp early in the third period to account for the final margin.

“This was huge,” said Stamkos, who has five goals and seven points this
season. “In the third period, we kind of just shut it down and that’s learning
from the mistakes we’ve made in other games.”

Ondrej Palat added two helpers for Tampa Bay, which saw Ben Bishop make 30

Although the victory pushed the Lightning’s record to 3-1-1 this season, the
club received bad news Saturday when top defenseman Victor Hedman left the
game in the second period and did not return. Hedman, who is tied with Stamkos
for the team lead in points with seven, suffered a hand injury and has
returned to Tampa for further evaluation.

According to Bolts head coach Jon Cooper, the Swedish blueliner is “probably
done” for the rest of Tampa’s current road trip, which has four games left,
including tonight’s tilt in Edmonton. Hedman reportedly could miss 4-to-6
weeks of action with the injury.

“We’re going to test our depth,” said Cooper. “It just puts a little more
pressure on the (defensive) core.”

With Hedman sidelined the Bolts recalled defenseman Luke Witkowski from the
club’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. Tampa also called up forward Jonathan Drouin
and the highly-touted rookie could make his NHL debut tonight. Drouin, the
third overall pick of the 2013 draft, had missed training camp with a
fractured right thumb.

Tampa will continue their trek tomorrow night in Calgary before completing the
swing with weekend dates in Winnipeg and Minnesota.

Bishop expects to start tonight and is 2-0 with a 1.45 goals against
average in three career games against the Oilers. Scrivens is 2-1-0 with a
3.08 GAA in four lifetime appearances versus Tampa.