Lightning at Oilers
When/where: 8; Rexall Place, Edmonton
Key stats: The Lightning is on a 7-1-1 streak. … Tampa Bay's five-game road winning streak is its longest since it won six straight from Jan. 8-Feb. 7, 2008. … LW Ondrej Palat has two goals, four assists in a five-game points streak. … Tampa Bay hasn't won in Edmonton since March 2007 (0-1-1). … The Oilers' 31 points are last in the Western Conference, and Edmonton has allowed a league-worst 151 goals. Its 14 points at home (6-11-2) and eight shorthanded goals allowed also are league worsts.
EDMONTON — The Lightning is Marty St. Louis' first priority. He is the captain, after all. And as he said recently, "I'm trying to focus on what we're doing here, playing every other day."
But on a four-game road trip through Canada that continues tonight against the Oilers at Rexall Place, St. Louis also has dealt with repeated questions about his Olympic aspirations.
It is a hot topic not only because the right wing is a prime candidate to make the 25-man Canadian team that will be announced Tuesday and go to next month's Games, but because St. Louis' candidacy is so intertwined with subplots.
First, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman is Canada's executive director. Yzerman also left St. Louis off the 2010 gold-medal team, something St. Louis has acknowledged was a bitter disappointment. Some in the Canadian media also suggest St. Louis' roster spot would be more assured if linemate Steven Stamkos was certain to be healed from a broken right tibia and able to play.
Asked if he buys into that, Stamkos said, "No. Marty deserves a spot on that team regardless of any player, whether they're injured or not. … He's a leader, he's the captain for a reason and probably should have been on the last (Olympic) team."
As to how his relationship with Yzerman will affect the decision, St. Louis said he hopes it doesn't: "I don't want to be on the team because Steve Yzerman is my boss. I want to be on the team because Marty St. Louis can bring something. We'll see."
What fans have seen from St. Louis, 38, is pretty remarkable. With 38 points on 17 goals and 21 assists, he entered Saturday tied for 18th in the league. In 24 games without Stamkos, he has 10 goals, 22 points playing mostly on a line with rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, squashing the idea he needs Stamkos to flourish.
He also has modified his game: "It's a bit different when you play with a 60-goal guy (Stamkos). No disrespect to those young guys; they're playing really good hockey for us. But I find myself probably shooting a little more. I find myself trying to make things happen more, not one-on-one, but try to create space for myself. I think, in a way I've had a chance to prove to myself that I can still do it."
"I think he took it as a personal challenge," coach Jon Cooper said. "You don't want to be looked at as, 'I need him to do it.' He's clearly shown he can do it with rookies as well, and that's pretty impressive."
St. Louis played in the 2006 Olympics and called it "a pretty cool experience." But going this year would be more special, he said: "My kids were really young (in 2006). Now, they'll remember this. For me, it's not just the 'what's in it for me?' It's 'what's in it for my family to get to live that?' That's why I'm pushing and hoping I fall on the right side of the equation this time."
And if he doesn't? "If it's not, it's not," St. Louis said. "I've been blessed with the career that I've had. The only thing you can do in this situation is give yourself a chance. I feel I've done that."
While taking care of the Lightning as well.