The Edmonton Oilers conclude a brief two-game road trip tonight in San Jose as they battle the rival San Jose Sharks for the first time this season. It’s the first of four meetings between the sides, who meet again in seven days in San Jose.
The Oilers are coming off of a dominant 6-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. Connor McDavid notched a hat trick, while Leon Draisaitl took over the league lead in points with four assists. The Oil managed just one win in five tires against the Sharks last season, finishing 1-4-0 against them.
Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers, while Martin Jones gets the nod for the Sharks.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Test Jones early and often. The veteran netminder is really struggling for the Sharks yet again. He has an .888 save percentage through 14 games and just hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm. The Oilers, like they did Sunday against John Gibson, have to test the goaltender early and fire everything on him. Do that, and the offense will come tonight.
San Jose: Slow down the pace. These Sharks are not the quick, high-octane group many are used to. In fact, this San Jose team is painfully slow right now. The Sharks need to slow things down and play at their own pace to have a chance tonight. If not, they’ll get run out of the building in a track meet.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Joakim Nygard returns after a stint on the IR due to broken ribs. The speedy Swede has one goal on the season, but was starting to find his game before injury. He has a good shot and is a fast forward. Edmonton needs more of that. If he can contribute it should really help the secondary scoring issues moving forward.
San Jose: Brent Burns has 16 points (3-13-16) this season in 18 games. He’s averaging over 26 minutes per game in ice time. In those areas, he’s the same old Burns that has dominated for years. He’s also a -11 and has really struggled possession wise. He’s worth watching tonight to see if it is just a rough patch, or if this is the beginning of the end for Burns.
After a dominant win in Anaheim, the Oilers are rolling with mostly the same group tonight. That said, Dave Tippett is making three lineup changes to ensure everyone gets to play on the mother’s trip. Gaetan Haas, Markus Granlund and Joel Persson sit while Sam Gagner, Joakim Nygard and Brandon Manning play.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
James Neal – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Alex Chiasson
Jujhar Khaira – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Joakim Nygard – Sam Gagner – Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom – Kris Russell
Brandon Manning – Matt Benning
The big change in San Jose? Joe Pavelski is no longer a Shark. The former captain signed with the Dallas Stars in July, leaving a huge hole to fill in San Jose’s forward ranks. Patrick Marleau returned as a free agent last month, while local product Noah Gregor has jumped up from AHL San Jose.
San Jose Sharks Lines:
Evander Kane – Logan Couture – Kevin Labanc
Timo Meier – Tomas Hertl – Barclay Goodrow
Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Patrick Marleau
Noah Gregor – Dylan Gambrell – Melker Karlsson
Radim Simek – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Erik Karlsson
Brendan Dillon – Mario Ferraro
This matchup, to say the least, was not kind to the Oilers a season ago. After winning the first meeting in overtime last November, the Oilers were crushed in four straight outings. They finished 1-4-0 against the Sharks and were outscored 25-14 in the series. Connor McDavid had eight points in the five games, leading both teams in the series.
Leon Draisaitl is still on fire. The German forward notched four assists on Sunday night, pushing him into first place in the NHL in scoring with 34 points (14-20-34). McDavid, thanks to his hat trick, is in a tie for second with 30 points (11-19-30).
Edmonton’s powerplay was a weapon again on Sunday. The Oilers are converting 29.1% of their chances, good for second in the league. They’ll face a tough test tonight, however, as the Sharks have the league’s best penalty kill. They kill 91.2% of penalties taken. Edmonton is fifth in the NHL with an 85.7% success rate on the PK.