The Edmonton Oilers will be looking to wrap up their California road trip on a high note as they head into San Jose for a Hockey Night in Canada matchup against the Sharks.
It goes without saying that the Oilers need to find a way to close out this road trip with two points. I know that the California road trip is never easy sledding but dropping the first two games adds even more pressure to an already dwindling playoff dream. Can they turn it around against San Jose? When the Oilers and Sharks last met on December 18th, Edmonton played one of their most complete games of the season to that point (10-14-2 in the first two months) and walked away with a 5-3 win. As we all know, the Oilers struggled mightily in the first two months of the year but that win against the Sharks ended up extending their winning streak and kicking off one of the best segments of hockey that they played all season. Maybe another win over the Sharks is exactly what the Oilers need in order to get themselves on another roll here? Dare to dream?
Meanwhile, the Sharks will also be looking to get themselves back in the win column as they’ve been spinning their wheels over the last couple weeks, losing their last three home games in the process. That task gets a little bit tougher with the absence of Joe Thornton, who is battling an MCL injury sustained on January 23rd against the Winnipeg Jets. Even without Joe, the Sharks are still a veteran team with plenty of offensive weapons up front and on the back end, and the Oilers will need to not only be ready to play from the moment the puck drops but also keep their defensive coverage dialled in. That means doing everything that is humanly possible to prevent a goal in the first moments of all three periods because spotting leads to the other team is definitely not working.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
- Milan Lucic has now gone 17 games without a goal. The last time he scored was back on December 23rd against the Montreal Canadiens, and you know that it has to be wearing on him. That’s not to say he’s not getting some quality chances, but you can tell he’s gripping the stick a little bit. Looch needs a greasy goal or something to get his confidence back, and I’m hoping that it will happen tonight. The Oilers need him to produce if they’re going to have any chance of making things interesting down the stretch.
- Though the hole they’ve dug for themselves is deep and cavernous, the Oilers are 5-3-1 in their last nine games. If they have even the loftiest of pipe dreams to make a run at a Wildcard spot then they’re going to need to keep up this kind of pace at minimum, even finding a way, if possible, to improve upon it. Needless to say, dropping two straight games in regulation to Pacific Division opponents is not a great look and is certainly not helping anything but the lottery odds.
- The Sharks are the losers of three straight home games by a margin of 16-12, showing me there are holes in their defensive coverage and goaltending right now. Will the Oilers be able to take advantage? I guess it will depend on whether Jekyll or Hyde shows up tonight.
- The Oilers have allowed a goal on the first shot of the game nine times this season. Let that sink in for a minute. In 17% of the games played so far, the Oilers were down by a goal before ever really getting going and it’s a stat that certainly belongs in the 2017-18 Hall of Shame. Not to be outdone, the Oilers have also allowed the first goal in 33 of their 53 games. That is a shocking lack of preparation, in my mind.
- In a surprise to no one, the Oilers will have to watch out for Brent Burns as he’s been hot lately, scoring five points (1G, 4A) in his last three games. The bearded one leads the Sharks in points with 47 (9G, 38A) in 54 games.
- Martin Jones has struggled in net over his last two games with sub .900 performances (both losses) in each. The Oilers need to shoot early and often to try and capitalize on this lull.
There hasn’t been any word on what the Oilers line combos will look like for today, but after leaving last night’s game I’m going to guess that both Sekera and Caggiula will be out. McLellan said in his post game scrum that both guys would be questionable against the Sharks so I’ll roll out a guess and see what happens.
Joe Thornton will miss his eighth game with an MCL injury. Tough luck for Joe, but good news for the Oilers.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Sharks are 2-3-1 in Thornton’s absence and 28-17-8 overall, and head into Thursday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights alone in second place in the Pacific Division with 64 points. The Sharks play five of their next six games at home, with the next five against division foes.
At the time of his Jan. 23 injury against the Winnipeg Jets, Thornton had 36 points in 47 games.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 4-1-1 against the Sharks in their last six regular season meetings (8-3-1 if you include the playoffs), and the trend will continue tonight with a 6-3 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: By the time warmup is over, Brent Burns’ beard will smell like cheese that’s been left in the sun.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After receiving countless complaints about how dark and dingy the SAP Center is, the Sharks’ staff finally decided to upgrade the arena to 30-watt bulbs.
Take home a growler, a crowler, a sixer, a mixer, whatever. Sherbrooke Liquor. Where’s Your Beer?
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 02/10/2018 – 11:00am MST