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5 Keys: Oilers at Sharks, Game 4

San Jose needs contribution from Joe Thornton; scoring by Connor McDavid would give Edmonton boost

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent

OILERS at SHARKS

10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, NBCSCA

Edmonton leads best-of-7 series 2-1

 

SAN JOSE -- The Edmonton Oilers will try to defeat the San Jose Sharks for a third straight time and take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference First Round series at SAP Center on Tuesday.

After losing 3-2 in overtime to the Sharks in Game 1 at Rogers Place on Wednesday, Edmonton bounced back to defeat the Sharks 2-0 at home on Friday and 1-0 here on Sunday.

Here are 5 keys for Game 4:

 

1. Desperate times

The Sharks should be fueled by maximum desperation, just as the Oilers were in Game 2 when facing the possibility of losing two straight at home.

"It's a veteran group over there," Edmonton forward Zack Kassian said after an optional morning skate at SAP Center on Tuesday. "They're going to give everything they've got. It will probably be their best game tonight. We need to match that or better that."

If the Sharks lose, they'll face the daunting task of having to defeat the Oilers three straight times after losing six of the past seven against them, including their final three regular-season games.

"I just think we win tonight, it's a new series," San Jose center Joe Thornton said. "That's how we look at it."

Video: The guys break down Oilers and Sharks in Game 3

 

2. Will the offenses bust out?

The Sharks and Oilers have combined to score eight goals, including three at even strength. Edmonton center Connor McDavid, whose 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) led the NHL, has one goal and one assist in the series. San Jose defenseman Brent Burns, who had 76 points (29 goals, 47 assists), has zero in three playoff games. Kassian, who scored seven goals in 79 regular-season games, has a series-high two.

"There's not a lot of goals out there, so you've got to try to find one or two early," said Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, who has one assist. "Hopefully you can build on that and get a little momentum going that way. But if they don't come, you just have to understand the details of the game have to be tight. You can't back off from that just because you want a little extra for yourself."

 

3. Joe Thornton's presence

After missing the first two games with a left-knee injury, Thornton made his 2017 playoff debut in Game 3. He gave San Jose an emotional boost and made it stronger down the middle, but he ran out of gas in the third period and wasn't on the ice when the Sharks pulled goaltender Martin Jones. Thornton expects to be better and stronger in Game 4.

"I feel great, personally," Thornton said after San Jose's optional morning skate. "I'm ready to go tonight. I think every game for me personally, I just want to keep getting better. That's the goal. Just get a little better from last game and I'll be fine."

 

4. Cam Talbot vs. Martin Jones

Talbot has back-to-back shutouts and hasn't allowed a goal since Sharks forward Melker Karlsson scored in overtime in Game 1. Talbot has stopped 80 of 83 shots, including 39 straight, and has an 0.98 goals-against average and .964 save percentage in the series.

Though Jones has been overshadowed by Talbot, he also has been good, making saves on 72 of 77 shots (1.66 GAA, .935 save percentage) in the series.

"Both teams have had their troubles trying to get a puck by the goaltenders," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "Both are quality goaltenders and they're at the top of their game right now."

Video: EDM@SJS, Gm3: Jones slides across to deny Maroon

 

5. Weathering the storm

The Sharks typically make a strong push at home in the first period, and that's what happened in Game 3. They outshot the Oilers 13-6 and outhit them 32-14, but they couldn't score.

"The first 10 minutes is huge tonight for us," Edmonton forward Patrick Maroon said. "It's a 10-minute game then a 50-minute game; how we control the first 10 minutes of the game, then what we do after that."

 

Oilers projected lineup

Patrick Maroon -- Connor McDavid -- Leon Draisaitl

Milan Lucic -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Jordan Eberle

Drake Caggiula -- Mark Letestu -- Zack Kassian

Benoit Pouliot -- David Desharnais -- Anton Slepyshev

Oscar Klefbom -- Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera -- Kris Russell

Darnell Nurse -- Matt Benning

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

Scratched:  Iiro Pakarinen, Eric Gryba, Matt Hendricks, Jujhar Khaira, Griffin Reinhart

Injured: Tyler Pitlick (knee)

 

Sharks projected lineup

Melker Karlsson -- Joe Thornton -- Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau -- Logan Couture -- Joel Ward

Jannik Hansen -- Tomas Hertl -- Joonas Donskoi

Timo Meier -- Chris Tierney -- Marcus Sorensen

Paul Martin -- Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon -- David Schlemko

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched:  Kevin Labanc, Dylan DeMelo, Micheal Haley, Mikkel Boedker

Injured: None

 

Status report

McLellan juggled his lines in the second period of Game 3, moving Draisaitl from right wing on the top line to center on the third line and Slepyshev from the fourth line to the top line. McLellan likely will begin the game with his regular lines, then adjust as needed. ... Boedker likely will be scratched for a second straight game.

 

Who's hot

Kassian has scored the game-winning goal in back-to-back games.

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