With the Oilers set to take to the ice in Game 42 of their regular season schedule there are now more games in the review mirror than on the road ahead. I'd be hesitant to call the first 41 games a success, the team is still four points back of fake 0.500, but compared to recent seasons things are looking a little bit better. The ship is still dangerously close to the rocks but at least now we turned the wheel so there's a chance that this end well for the boys in orange and blue.
Tonight the Oilers put their perfect 2016 record (a 2-0 record might not be much but we'll take it) on the line against the Tampa Bay Lightning another team that likely wouldn't call the season so far a success. Coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Blackhawks in six games, the Lightning find themselves in fifth place in the NHL's Atlantic Division and two points out of a wild card spots; for what it's worth, the Oilers are only four points out of a playoff spot right now. That can't make anyone associated with the Lightning happy.
The record is what the record is of course, but if I was in Tampa Bay I wouldn't be too worried about things right now. First, two points out of a playoff spot with 42 games to play is nothing. And second, with a GF%, SF%, and CF% all north of 51% through 40 games it certainly looks as if they're doing more good than bad, they're just not getting the bounces right now. It's not impossible that they continue to run cold for another 40 games and miss the playoffs but it's not something I'd bet a lot of money on.
The Oilers will ice an almost identical lineup to what they used in their last game, a 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes; remember they're perfect in 2016 and if it ain't broke don't fix it. The lone change is Iiro Pakarinen who returns to the lineup after missing two games with a concussion. Iiro the Hero will be taking Jujhar Khaira's spot in the lineup. I would think that Khaira, who was sent back to Bakersfield yesterday to make room on the roster for Pakarinen, surprised a lot of people in the 12 games he played with the Oilers. It's not always pretty on the ice but he was making plays and it certainly looks as if there is going to be a player there someday in the not too distant future.