After a strong final three games to their road trip which resulted in two wins, the Oilers return to Rogers Place tonight for a massive Pacific Division battle. Tonight, Edmonton hosts the San Jose Sharks with first place on the line in the division. A regulation win for the home team will push them ahead of their California rivals.
Edmonton lost, 3-2 in overtime, to these same Sharks in the first meeting 18 days ago. The Oilers were outplayed in the first forty minutes of that game, but the Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl line was put together in the third period and dominated, forcing overtime.
Cam Talbot returns to the net for Edmonton, while all-star Martin Jones starts for the Sharks.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: The Oilers will need to be stronger on the puck tonight than they were last month in San Jose. The Sharks allow just under 27 shots on goal per game, meaning chances to beat Jones will be few and far between. When the Oilers protected the puck in the third period of the last meeting, they controlled the play. Be stronger on the puck and the chance for two points will be there.
San Jose: The Sharks need to play their typical style of physical hockey. If they can bump the Oilers off of pucks, win the board battles and force the Oilers to play a heavier neutral zone game, then San Jose should be able to control this game and take the two points.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Matthew Benning had a tremendous road trip for the Oilers and will be in a featured role on the blueline again tonight. Benning’s speed and ability to transport the puck is a huge asset for the Oilers, and if he can play his game tonight it should help Edmonton control the puck more.
San Jose: Joe Thornton dominates the Edmonton Oilers, there really isn’t another way to say it. As pointed out by Jason Gregor of OilersNation, Thornton has 11-50-61 in 55 regular season meetings. While Jumbo Joe has slowed down a bit this season, he’s still an extremely talented player and a threat whenever he is on the ice. He’s worth watching in this game.
Brandon Davidson is still sick and will miss tonight’s game, meaning the Oilers lineup will see no changes in terms of the skaters. Anton Slepyshev, recalled yesterday from the AHL, is slated to be the healthy scratch up front. Jordan Eberle, after a strong weekend showing, will move back into the top six forward unit.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot – Drake Caggiula – Zack Kassian
Matt Hendricks – Mark Letestu – Anton Lander
Andrej Sekera -Matt Benning
Oscar Klefbom – Eric Gryba
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson
San Jose Sharks Lines:
Timo Meier – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Michael Haley – Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo
The Oilers lost the first meeting of the season 3-2 in overtime back on December 23rd. The team also lost the first meeting against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks on the road before returning the favor with a home victory in the second meeting. The Oilers hope that trend continues tonight.
The Pacific Division all-star team was announced today, and no Oilers were included. Connor McDavid, announced as captain last week, will be the team’s lone representative at the event as of now. Personally, I thought that both Cam Talbot and Leon Draisaitl were deserving of spots on the team.
The Oilers lost their last game against a divisional opponent, a 3-2 shootout loss at home on New Year’s Eve against the Vancouver Canucks.
While the Sharks have feasted on the east this season, they have simply been average against the west. The Oilers, while average at home, have been very good against the division, only losing in regulation time once on home ice. The Oilers have also flipped the script, as mentioned above, against the other Cali teams in the second meeting.
That trend will continue tonight, as the Oilers top the Sharks 3-1 to leapfrog into first place in the division. Eberle, Kassian and Draisaitl get the tallies for the Oilers, while Logan Couture scores the lone San Jose goal.