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Preview: Oilers at Sharks

Forward Tomas Hertl returns for San Jose; Edmonton goes for back-to-back wins

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

OILERS (27-15-8) at SHARKS (31-16-2)

10:30 p.m. ET; SNW, CSN-CA, NHL.TV


Oilers team scope

The Edmonton Oilers are 6-0-1 in their past seven games after a 4-0 victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday at Honda Center. They did not have a morning skate before the second of back-to-back games, and coach Todd McLellan said he won't determine his lineup until after warmup. "Like every other team in the League there's bumps, bruises, whatnot, and we'll know our lineup post-warmup," he said. Cam Talbot made 26 saves in the shutout against Anaheim, but McLellan did not say whether Talbot or backup Laurent Brossoit will start. In each of Edmonton's previous five sets of back-to-back games, McLellan split the starts. But Talbot had four days off before facing the Ducks, and the Oilers will have four days off for the All-Star Game break, beginning Friday. Talbot is 25-12-7 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Brossoit, who was called up from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Jan. 10, is 1-0-0 with a 3.00 GAA and .927 save percentage. The Oilers (62 points) are third in the Pacific Division, two points behind the first-place San Jose Sharks and one behind Anaheim. The Oilers are 0-1-1 against San Jose, including a 3-2 overtime loss at SAP Center on Dec. 23 in their final game before the Christmas break. "We'd like to play better in this building than we did last time, under similar circumstances, heading into a break," McLellan said.


Sharks team scope

Forward Tomas Hertl will return after missing 32 games with a sprained right knee. Hertl was injured Nov. 17 against the St. Louis Blues and had what the Sharks said was a minor surgical procedure Nov. 22. "I'm excited, for sure," Hertl said. "It's been a long time. I feel great. No problems at all. No issues, no pain." Hertl said he expects to be fine after skating a few shifts and taking a few hits. "I think if there was any chance that we were rushing him, we wouldn't do it," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're over eight weeks from the surgery, which was a 6-to-8-week window. We've been ultra-conservative with it. He just looks great in practice. He wants to go, and we could use him right now. We could use a little energy." DeBoer said he had yet to decide whether Hertl would play center on the third line or left wing on the top line with center Joe Thornton and right wing Joe Pavelski. He acknowledged that it might be easier to ease Hertl back into action as a wing. "You also see the value of having a center ice of Thornton [Logan] Couture, Hertl and [Chris] Tierney. You see the depth, and the real good teams have that type of depth up the middle. That's what we're weighing right now. I think long-term I want him in the middle." The Sharks have won a season-high six straight games, all in a span of nine days.


Oilers projected lineup

Patrick Maroon -- Connor McDavid -- Leon Draisaitl

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

Benoit Pouliot -- Drake Caggiula -- Anton Slepyshev

Matt Hendricks -- Mark Letestu -- Zack Kassian

Oscar Klefbom -- Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera -- Kris Russell

Brandon Davidson -- Matt Benning

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

Scratched: Eric Gryba, Anton Lander

Injured : Andrew Ference (hip), Iiro Pakarinen (knee), Darnell Nurse (foot), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Jujhar Khaira (wrist)


Sharks projected lineup

Melker Karlsson -- Joe Thornton -- Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau -- Logan Couture -- Mikkel Boedker

Kevin Labanc -- Tomas Hertl -- Joel Ward

Timo Meier -- Chris Tierney -- Ryan Carpenter

Paul Martin -- Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon -- David Schlemko

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched: Tim Heed

Injured: Joonas Donskoi (upper body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist), Micheal Haley (lower body)


Status update

If Hertl plays left wing on the top line, Tierney will center the third line and Carpenter the fourth with Karlsson dropping to the fourth line. Jones will make his 42nd start of the season, second in the League behind Talbot (44).


Who's hot

Marleau has five goals in his past two games and is two away from 500 in his NHL career. Couture has a four-game point streak (two goals, four assists). ... Burns has two goals and two assists in his past two games. McDavid has a five-game point streak (two goals, five assists). Kassian has a five-game point streak (two goals, three assists), as does Draisaitl (three goals, three assists). Eberle has three goals and three assists in his past five games.

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