SAN JOSE, CA - The Oilers had a lead in Arizona but watched their penalty kill allow three goals in an eventual 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes. In order to have a bounce-back game in San Jose, Edmonton needs fix the negatives, but be sure to take positives from their previous contest.
The Oilers got two power play goals in that game and liked the way they played 5-on-5.
“We did a lot of good things in that game,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “The power play came to life, and it’s not just because we scored two power-play goals. We were dangerous, we did some of the things we wanted to on the breakouts, the entries, we got pucks through to the net, we had net presence, so there were a lot of good things that occurred on the power play. 5-on-5, we didn’t give up much at all to a team that attacks with their backhand. We handled that well and we’ll need to do that tonight."
Sustained offensive zone time is a key tonight against the Sharks. San Jose has won three-straight games, and has scored 16 goals in that span.
“You’ve got to realize they’re going to play in your end,” said McLellan. “They’re that good a team and they’re that big and strong so they’re going to have the puck. Positionally, you’ve got to be on the right side of your check. They score a lot off of distant shots, deflections and screens. Joe Pavelski is as good as there is in the league in a long time in that situation. Others are good in that area as well. They generate a lot of shots from the blueline, a lot of rebounds, a lot of retrievals and so we’re aware of that. So are all the other teams in the league. It’s a matter of defending it and being productive against it.”
It’s important to the Oilers to get back on the winning track and collect two points to stay in the thick of things in this division.
“I think we’ve been close here in the last little bit of getting to overtime games or getting late into games,” said Oilers centre Mark Letestu. “Then kind of not making good on coming away with two points. I think we can get some confidence going and get right back into the fight and where we want to be. It’s vital before we go home for a big game against Calgary.”
The Oilers will insert two fresh bodies into the lineup tonight against the Sharks. Zack Kassian makes his Oilers debut after being recalled from Bakersfield yesterday. Nail Yakupov returns from an ankle injury that caused him to miss over 20 games.
“Glad to be back in,” said Yakupov. “I’ve waited for this moment for a long time. Extremely exciting game for me.”
This length of injury was a new experience for Yakupov.
“That was a weird feeling. It was the first time I’ve missed so many games. It wasn’t a really fun part of my life. Those things happen sometimes. It’s kind of part of our job. I hope I’m stronger, faster and smarter. It’s good to be back and I’ll do everything I can today… I’ll just try and push 100 percent and see what happens.”
Bringing those two into the lineup means more tweaking ahead for McLellan and his staff.
“We’ll make a couple shifts in lines and with pairs,” said McLellan. “We won’t dress seven (defencemen). I think we’ve got to get into this game and look at who’s comfortable with each other, with both Zack and Yak coming back. Then maybe change on the fly. If everything is going well, maybe keep things the same.”
The team is hoping Kassian and Yakupov bring energy to the ice and help filter that through the bench against the Sharks. The players will be there to help both of them transition back to playing.
“There’s going to be new systems, new personnel, new language probably with the coaches, so I’m sure there’s going to be questions,” said Letestu. “You want to be there as a teammate to answer those. Hopefully limit as much confusion as possible so they can just play. When you get new bodies or guys returning from injury, you hope they supply energy. They’ve been out for a while, they’re excited to get back in the lineup. Those fresh legs hopefully become contagious and their energy and their enthusiasm from returning to the lineup spreads through the room.”
The Oilers morning skate was optional, so the only lineup note is that Cam Talbot was first off the ice and is expected to start in net.
WELCOME BACK, TODD
For McLellan and his staff, today is sort of a homecoming. McLellan coached in San Jose for seven years before coming to Edmonton, with assistants Jay Woodcroft and Jim Johnson serving their same roles there as well.
McLellan enjoyed much success with the Sharks, making the playoffs in all but one of his seasons there. Just like when a player returns to his former team, the Oilers want to perform well tonight for their coaches.
“Whether it’s coaching staff or teammates, when you return to where they played prior, you always want to perform for them,” said Letestu. “You want them to come back and succeed. That doesn’t mean just Todd specifically. We wanted to get that win for (Lauri Korpikoski) in Arizona. There’s just certain things as teammates and you want to be there for each other. This is one of those times the team wants to be there for Todd, to come back to San Jose and have success. You try to approach it as similarly as any other game, but it certainly means a lot to him and as a team we’d like to perform well.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (17-23-4) at SHARKS (21-18-2)
TV: SNW, CSN-CA
Season series: Taylor Hall scored with 1:01 left in overtime to give the Edmonton Oilers a 4-3 win against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 9. Hall, Jordan Eberle, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had a goal and an assist for Edmonton; Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun had a goal and an assist for San Jose.
Oilers team scope: It will be coach Todd McLellan's first game in San Jose since Edmonton hired him May 19. McLellan was 311-163-66 in seven seasons as Sharks coach from 2008-15. "I think the first time coming back is always a little bit different, it feels a little different," McLellan told the Oilers website. "But we've got work to do. We're going to play against a team that's on fire right now; they're playing really well. Like most nights, we'll have our work cut out for us." Forward Nail Yakupov likely will return to the lineup after missing the past 21 games because of an ankle injury. "That could certainly change when he comes off the ice or if things haven't gone well medically, but all indications are he's real close to playing," McLellan said. Yakupov has two goals and 10 assists in 22 games. He practiced Wednesday on a line with center Anton Lander and forward Zack Kassian, who was recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League earlier in the day. Edmonton will be without forward Matt Hendricks, who was suspended three games Tuesday by the NHL Department of Player Safety for boarding Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad in a 2-1 loss Sunday.
Sharks team scope: San Jose has won three in a row following a 4-1 victory at the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Forward Dainius Zubrus was placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of an upper-body injury. He has not played since last Thursday, a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Zubrus has a goal and an assist in 17 games in his first season with the Sharks. Forward Raffi Torres, who was suspended the first 41 games for an illegal check to the head against Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg in an Oct. 3 preseason game, was added to the active roster and assigned to the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL for a conditioning stint. Torres, 34, who missed the entire 2014-15 season while recovering from knee surgery, has not played an NHL game since April 30, 2014, when the Los Angeles Kings eliminated the Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round. "We know Raffi can be a very effective player for our team, and this assignment will allow him to get back into game shape," coach Peter DeBoer told the Sharks website. Center Joe Thornton has at least a point in 12 of the past 13 games; he has five goals and 11 assists in that span.