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These Sharkies are a sure thing, no?

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Photo credit:© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
1 month ago
If the Edmonton Oilers are serious about making the playoffs this season, they can’t lose to a team as bad as bottom-feeders like the San Jose Sharks in their first game back from the Christmas break tonight, can they? Can they?
Of course, they can, and they have – a 3-2 loss in San Jose Nov. 9 spelled the end of Jay Woodcroft’s tenure behind the bench and landed Kris Knoblauch in that hotseat 18 games ago. Now 12-6-0 under Knoblauch and back in post-season contention largely on the strength of an eight-game winning streak, the Oilers have been a better team since the change.
The Sharks? Not so much. Not at all, actually. They remain dead-last in NHL standings at 9-23-3 for 21 points and they’ve lost six straight games, including a 5-1 spanking at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday in their first game back.
Tonight, as was the case Nov. 9, I’m convinced the Oilers should beat the Sharks for fun. Then, I flashback to Woodcroft and Dave Manson walking across the ice after that stunner and Woodcroft appearing to say, “That might be it.” Manson responds, “Yup.” It was, even if the sack came one game later. There is no sure thing for this team. Here we are.

WHAT HE SAID

Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Kris Knoblauch looks on against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers, off since a rousing third-period rally and a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Dec. 22, jumped their charter jet to San Jose on Wednesday afternoon and skated at the SAP Center.
“Just reminders of what we did well to give us those two victories, especially in the third period in both games, and not overwhelm them coming from the break,” Knoblauch said when asked about taking the late-day skate. “It’s not like they’re going to forget everything that we’re doing and the systems or stuff like that, so I think it’s just a lot of mild refreshers.”
Stuart Skinner gets the start tonight. This California swing also includes stops in Los Angeles on Saturday and Anaheim Sunday. Knoblauch will have 21 games behind the bench as Oilers’ coach when we ring in 2024. With the slow start that cost Woodcroft his job, there’s still very little margin for error.
“Obviously, there’s highs and lows,” Knoblauch said when asked about his tenure to this point. “The highs, the eight-game winning streak. The lows, the three-game losing streak, but even the three-game losing streak I thought we deserved a better fate. We’ve been able to string together some wins.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Call me a glutton for punishment, but as was the case going into the game in San Jose back in November, I just can’t see the Oilers losing to the Sharks tonight. The Oilers have too much on the line to blow it again, no?
Throw in the payback factor and it’s a mismatch every way you look at it. This shapes up as a runaway. Right?

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