SAN JOSE, CA - Joakim Nygard is slated to make his return to the Oilers lineup tonight as they close out their two-game California road trip against the San Jose Sharks.
The forward has been sidelined since Oct. 14 when he sustained an injury to his ribs against the Chicago Blackhawks. After just under a month on Injured Reserve, Nygard was activated Tuesday afternoon and is looking forward to getting back to game action.
"I've got a lot of energy in me that needs out," the speedy Swede said with a smile following morning skate at SAP Center. "I'm really glad to be back and start playing again. I'm really excited."
The Oilers signed Nygard as a free agent out of his homeland on May 24 and the 26-year-old had recorded one goal on nine shots through six games before suffering the injury to his ribs.
"I felt good before my injury," he said of how his North American game was rounding into form. "But then the injury came and I had to get some rehab going and didn't do much for one or two weeks. But I feel good now. I've been on the ice for two weeks, a little bit by myself and then with the team. I just want to go out there and skate again."
Prior to making his NHL debut this season, Nygard spent seven seasons with Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League, tallying 21 goals and 14 assists in 52 games last year.
Head Coach Dave Tippett said he hopes the winger can pick up where he left off with regards to his acclimatization to the NHL.
"When he got hurt, he was just starting to come along," said the Oilers bench boss. "He's one of those European players that came over a little older and is finding his way over here, but he has a lot of elements that could make him a really good NHL player… We're hoping he adds a little bit more speed to our lineup.
"It's a process for them go through and learn the NHL game, They've played their whole life in a European-sized rink in a league in Sweden. It's a whole different game over here. Things happen a lot quicker and it's more physical, and it's funny those are things he's embraced. He thinks those are big parts of his game. He was starting to get up and going but then he got hurt, so I'm anxious to get him back in and we'll see how it goes."
SPECIAL TEAMS SHOWDOWN
The Oilers have been tremendously effective on the penalty kill over the last two games, vanquishing all nine disadvantages they've faced. But while it's great to have the PK clicking, they know it's in their best interest to buckle down the discipline and stay out of the sin bin in the first place.
"We want to stay out of the box," Tippett said. "That's just putting yourself at a disadvantage every time. The more we can stay out of the box, the better off it is. We know San Jose is going to have a good power play tonight, so there's no use putting them on as many times as we did the other night."
Heading into tonight's Pacific Division matchup, the Sharks rank 13th in the NHL in PP at 21.3%, while Oilers have the fifth best PK at 85.7%. Edmonton's road PK has also been the best in the League this season at 91.2%.
On the flip side, the Oilers have the second best PP in the League at 29.1%, while the Sharks rank first in PK at 91.2% with an even more impressive 96.8% success rate in the friendly confines of the Shark Tank.
One player on each squad has been particularly lethal on the PP this season, as Edmonton's James Neal has eight goals on the man advantage, while San Jose's Evander Kane has seven.
In addition to Nygard returning to the lineup, the Oilers are expected to make a few more changes with Sam Gagner and Brandon Manning getting back in, while Markus Granlund, Gaetan Haas and Joel Persson will be scratched.
Between the pipes, Mike Smith is slated to get the start after Mikko Koskinen played the last two games. Smith is 5-4-1 on the season with a 2.22 GAA and .926 save percentage. He's also 13-12-3 in his career vs. San Jose with a 2.42 GAA and .932 save percentage.
-- Ryan Frankson, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (12-5-2) at SHARKS (7-10-1)
TV: 8:30 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet West
This is the first of four meetings between the Oilers and Sharks in the 2019-20 season.
San Jose defeated the Oilers in four of five tilts last year, outscoring Edmonton 25-14.
Connor McDavid led the Oilers offensively against the Sharks with three goals, five assists and eight points.
Evander Kane, Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson all had seven points versus the Oilers in '18-19.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers stroll into San Jose fresh off a 6-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, in a game that saw McDavid net the fifth hat trick of his career. The Oilers Captain wasn't the only one who had a strong night, however, as Leon Draisaitl had four assists, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice and Zack Kassian had a three-point performance.
Draisaitl (14G, 20A) leads the National Hockey League in points with 34 while McDavid (11G, 19A) is in a tie for second with 30.
Edmonton is first in the Pacific Division with a 12-5-2 record and 26 points, three up on the Calgary Flames.
Sharks team scope:
The Sharks downed the Nashville Predators with a 2-1 SO win on Saturday, with Timo Meier notching the shootout winner in the seventh round.
With the win, San Jose extended their win streak to three games. The club is 4-5-1 in their last 10 outings and is 5-4-0 at home this year.
Kane leads the Sharks with 10 goals, while Hertl is first on the team in points with 18.
San Jose sits seventh in the Pacific Division with a 7-10-1 record and 15 points.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers have the second-best power play in the League, converting at 29.1 percent. ... Edmonton is fifth on the penalty kill with an 85.7 percentage. ... The Sharks, meanwhile, have the best penalty kill with a 91.2 percentage. ... The Orange & Blue are 9-1-1 when scoring first and are 6-0-0 when leading after the opening 20. ... The Sharks are 0-8-0 when trailing after the first period. ... The Oilers are 3-0-1 against the Pacific Division, while the Sharks are 1-4-0.
OILERS - Adam Larsson (fractured right fibula) is on IR.
SHARKS - Dalton Prout (upper body) is day-to-day; Mario Ferraro (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Jacob Middleton (undisclosed) is on IR.