January 10 2017 01:30PM
The Oilers have nine home victories, the fewest of any Western Conference playoff team. The good news is their 12 road victories are the most in the Western Conference. But as they begin a six-game home stand tonight against the San Jose Sharks, the Oilers are focused on improving their record in the Ice District.
The Oilers have had home success against Western Conference opponents, going 6-2-2, and as they enter the second half of the season divisional games become even more important. The Oilers are 3-1-1 at home versus the Pacfic, with victories over Calgary, Los Angeles and Anaheim, an OT loss to Vancouver and a regulation loss to Arizona.
They host the Sharks for the first time this season tonight, and first place is on the line. That is not a misprint. A game in Edmonton, in January, for first place in the division. My, how times have changed, Oilersnation.
The Sharks and Anaheim Ducks have 50 points while the Oilers are one back with 49. These teams battled on December 23rd in San Jose with the Sharks winning 3-2 in OT. Much of the chatter from the Oilers dressing room this morning focused on them becoming a better home team. They need better starts, and they need to attack the Sharks more than they did 18 days ago.
The Oilers had a season high six PP chances in San Jose, but their PP only generated five shots in 12 minutes of PP time.
The Oilers are 14-2-3 when they score a PP goal, and they are 9-12-4 when they don't. The Sharks are 14-5-0 when they score a PP goal and 10-9-2 when their PP shoots blanks.
Scoring on the PP has lead to much more success for both teams, where as both have been able to overcome allowing a PP marker. Edmonton is 8-7-2 when they surrender a powerplay goal, while San Jose is also 8-7-2.
Unlike past seasons, these teams are evenly matched.
The Oilers are 10th in GF/G at 2.81, the Sharks are 19th at 2.58.
San Jose is 4th in GA/G at 2.25 and Edmonton sits 13th at 2.62.
Edmonton's PP is 10th at 21.2% and San Jose is 21st at 16.4%.
The Sharks PK is 11th at 83% while the Oilers are 19th at 80.6%.
The Oilers are +5 in 5x5 GF/GA ratio, while the Sharks are +7.
The one obvious difference is shots against. Cam Talbot, 37, and Martin Jones, 35, have started the most games in the NHL, but Talbot has faced 209 more shots. The Sharks surrender the second fewest shots per game, 26.8, and the Oilers will need to protect the puck better tonight than they did in San Jose, maintain possession and generate more shots and chances against Jones.
Jordan Eberle was back with RNH and Lucic today, while Kassian slid down with Caggiula and Pouliot. Slepyshev was the extra forward.
Brandon Davidson still isn't ready so it'll be the same D pairs as last game, and Talbot starts.
The Sharks get a big boost with the return of Olympian Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He's missed a few games with fractures in his face.
- Unlike most West teams the Sharks have dominated the Eastern conference, 15-6-0, but they are only 9-8-2 versus the West. They are 2-2 versus the Ducks, 1-1-1 versus the Coyotes, 2-1-1 versus the Kings, 1-1 versus the Flames and 1-0 versus Edmonton. The Sharks are a team the Oilers can beat if they play well.
- Joe Thornton needs 12 assists to reach 1000 in his career and he'll become only the 13th player in NHL history to accomplish that amazing feat. Wayne Gretzky (1963), Ron Francis (1249), Mark Messier (1193), Ray Bourque (1169), Jaromir Jagr (1137), Paul Coffey (1135), Adam Oates (1079), Steve Yzerman (1063), Gordie Howe (1049), Marcel Dionne (1040), Mario Lemieux (1033) and Joe Sakic (1016) are the others.
Thornton is a guaranteed Hall of Fame player, and if he plays another three seasons (he's looking for a three-year deal from the Sharks), he should reach 1100 assists.
- Brent Burns has 15 goals and 39 points. The rest of the Sharks defence has 11 goals and 48 points. He is a such a dynamic player and the Oilers must be aware of him in all three zones.
- Not surprisingly Jonas Gustavsson cleared waivers. He'll be the backup tonight, while Laurent Brossoit starts in the AHL. McLellan said a decision will be made after the game. I think we can assume that means Brossoit comes up and Gustavsson goes down.
- Martin Jones got the nod in goal over Cam Talbot for the All-Star team. You could make a strong argument Talbot deserves it more, facing 209 more shots and having a better SV%, .920 to .917. It sucks for Talbot, but it likely is good for the Oilers with Talbot getting more rest over All-Star weekend. Mike Smith was the other goalie. Arizona needed someone to represent them and it was Smith.
- I think the NHL should strongly consider going with the best eleven players from each division, and not worry about a representative from each team. The All-Star game result means little, the game is just for fun, but the best players should be in it, not one from each team. I've never liked the rule and with Vegas entering the league next year it will make having a Vegas player on the team even more ridiculous.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING...
From Fear the Fin
It’s hard to figure out exactly what the best lines are for Edmonton because Todd McLellan likes to blend lines in Alberta just as much as he did in San Jose. Maroon has spend time with Connor McDavid, Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl — sometimes with two of the aforementioned three. And Edmonton can’t resist sending Milan Lucic out on the top line with McDavid, despite his skillset being better suited to a third-line role.
That gives San Jose an advantage, of course. McDavid took the Sharks’ lunch money in their last meeting by embarrassing Joe Thornton and company with his speed, but keeping a hit-first player like Lucic out there helps mitigate the damage. That might change with Timo Meier on the ice, but McDavid is going to be the best player in the NHL before his career is over, so expect the Sharks to take the L while he’s on the ice.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers win their 10th home game of the season and hand the Sharks their 10th regulation road loss. Oilers win 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Thornton picks up an assist. In 55 regular season games versus the Oilers he has 11-50-61. He's had five three-point games, 16 two-point games and 14 one-point games. He loves playing the Oilers.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mark Letestu has zero goals in eight Tuesday games this year. However, he has 10 career points in 14 games versus the Sharks. He breaks his Tuesday drought with a goal tonight.
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