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Photo Credit: © John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 20.0: Attack The Sharks (8:30pm MT, SNW)

A regulation victory over the San Jose Sharks would put the Edmonton Oilers 13 points ahead of the Sharks at just under the quarter mark of the season. Last season the Sharks led the Pacific with 23 points through 20 games, while the Los Angeles Kings were in the basement with 15 points in their first 20 games. All eight teams were within eight points, but a victory tonight would give the Oilers a massive lead over San Jose. A regulation loss and the Sharks are only nine points behind.

It is early in the season, but divisional games are always meaningful and a flight home with a 13-point lead instead of nine would be much more enjoyable for the Oilers.

The Sharks have won three in a row after a five-game losing streak. Martin Jones played his best game of the season on Saturday against Nashville, stopping 24 of 25 shots and then stoning all seven Predators shooters in the shootout. But Jones has only had a SV% above .905 in three of his 13 starts. He has struggled, and so too have the Sharks defensively. Even though their top players are experienced veterans, the Oilers need to pressure them at 5×5 and try to get a lead.

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The Sharks are 0-8 when trailing after the first period and 1-9 when trailing after 40 minutes. They are 3-1-1 when leading. The Oilers are 6-0 when leading after 20 minutes and they are 7-0 when leading after two periods.

Edmonton has scored first in 11 of their 19 games and they are 9-1-1 when scoring first. No team has more wins when scoring first, and only Washington has more points (9-1-2) when scoring first. The Oilers have scored first in their past four games, but they allowed the Coyotes (1:59), Blues (3:14) and Ducks (1:58) to score within the next four minutes to tie the game. They were 1-1-1 in those games.

The Sharks are 4-1-1 when scoring first, but are 3-9 when giving up the first goal.

The Oilers and Sharks are both even in first periods this season. Edmonton has scored 15 goals and allowed 15 in the first frame, while the Sharks are 18-18.

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The Oilers have outscored teams 18-14 in the second, 22-17 in the third and 2-1 in overtime. Meanwhile San Jose has been outscored 25-16 in the second, 20-13 in the third and 1-0 in overtime.

The biggest improvement for the Oilers has been their ability to defend and limit chances for the opposition. They actually have more scoring chances for than against in all situations this season sitting at 513-510. Last season they were 21st in SCF-SCA and outside of 2017 that has been a re-occurring theme for years.

Their puck support of one another in all three zones is much better, but especially in the defensive zone. We haven’t seen long stretches where the opposition cycles the puck endlessly which eventually leads to a goal or a penalty.

Continue that tonight against the Sharks and the Oilers will have a good chance to win their 13 of their first 20 games for the first time since the start of the 1985/1986 season.

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LINEUP

Oilers

Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian
Neal-RNH-Chiasson
Khaira-Sheahan-Archibald
Nygard-Gagner-P.Russell

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Nurse-Bear
Klefbom-Russell
Manning-Benning

Smith

Some interesting lineup changes as Joakim Nygard will play his first game in a month, but also Brandon Manning and Sam Gagner draw in. I wonder if Manning is in because they like him against heavier teams, but also possibly due to this being a Mother’s trip. You want all the players to get a game in with mom in the house. I respect that, if indeed that is part of Dave Tippett’s thinking.

Sharks

Kane-Couture-Labanc
Meier-Hertl-Goodrow
Sorenson-Thornton-Marleau
Gregor-Gambrell-Karlsson

Simek-Burns
Vlasic-Karlsson
Dillon-Heed

Jones

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Simek’s return to the blueline has really helped the Sharks. Despite this being only his 45th NHL game, he is very steady on the backend. He is older than Ethan Bear, but I see comparables in their game. Both move the puck very well, and quick, even under pressure. Simek made his season debut three games ago, and they have won all three. Not solely because of him, but he calms things down and moves the puck effectively.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: I have never had an emotional attachment to an Oilers game until tonight, due to my nephew playing for the Sharks. I usually just make a prediction based on gut, or how the Oilers or the opponents are playing. Sorry Oilersnation, I can’t go against family. Sharks win 4-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl extends his point streak to 10 games. He also becomes the first player in 20 years to have 25 EV points in his first 20 games.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Noah Gregor scores his first NHL goal. What a dream it would be for him to score against the team he grew up watching. I will re-watch the goal many times.

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