EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers entertain the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Place in their final home game of the 2018-19 NHL season tonight, looking to cap off their home schedule with a victory.
"We want to send them into the summer with a good game and show them an entertaining game," forward Leon Draisaitl said of the home crowd. "We're going to play as hard as we can to try and get the two points."
Goaltender Anthony Stolarz is slated to make his second start as an Oiler tonight when he gets the nod in goal over Mikko Koskinen, who'd made 24 of the last 25 starts in the crease for the Blue and Orange.
The 25-year-old netminder from Edison, New Jersey said it would be a different feel tonight in goal knowing he had more time prepare for this start after his first appearance against the Toronto Maple Leafs back on March 9 was confirmed a few hours before due to an illness to Koskinen.
"I'm excited," Stolarz said. "I've been working hard in practice and I'm really encouraged by my last relief appearance. I just want to go out there and give a good effort."
Stolarz made 16 saves on 17 shots in relief of Koskinen in a 5-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on March 30. The netminder is 4-4-3 this season with a 3.48 goals-against average and .901 save percentage.
"Went over the tape a little bit with [Oilers Goaltending Coach Dustin Schwartz] about the good things, cleaning up some rebounds here and there, and for me tonight I want to settle in early and limit the opposing teams' second-chance opportunities and rebounds."
The Sharks know they'll face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs, with the remainder of the season serving as a feel-out opportunity and a chance to break out of a 1-8-1 slump in their last 10 games in which they've been outscored 43-27.
San Jose has allowed a league-high 4.30 goals against per game since March 14, but their 281 goals scored this season ranks third in the league thanks to 12 players registering double-digit goals.
"They're a deep team. One of the deepest teams in the league and they have been for years," Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They're well built, well-constructed, and they're older players have been with them for a long, long time. I knew them when they were young, and they're obviously looking at the way things are now and this might be their best chance.
"I know they're going through a little bit of a tough time right now, but knowing those players and the coach as well as I do, they'll be ready."
The Sharks have scored 98 goals in the first period, only second in the league to the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. Draisaitl spoke to tonight's visitor's ability to start games well every time he's faced them.
"They're just prepared off the bat every single game. I've never seen them have a bad start," he said. "They know how to play the game coming out of the dressing room, so we have to make sure we match them."
Forward Alex Chiasson is one of five Oilers in double-digit goals this season and highlighted San Jose's ability to play a fast, dangerous game as they prepare for the playoffs despite their hardships in the previous 10 games.
"I was looking at their roster this morning," Chiasson said. "They've got a lot of guys with double-digit goals or over 20 goals, so I think they feel like they can play a bit more of their run-and-gun game. This is a team that's getting prepared for the playoffs, and it hasn't been a great stretch for them. I'm sure these guys are playing these last few games to get ready for the first round."
Hitchcock cited Chiasson as one Oiler who can counter that run-and-gun game, playing up his ability to find the right locations in the offensive zone.
"For me, he knows what I call spots and spacing as well as anybody," Hitchcock said. "He knows where to go to get the open shot in the offensive zone. He's what's called a pocket player, meaning he works dot to dot, and in the offensive zone he knows where to get the puck.
"He can read coverage, he can read how to get open out of coverage, and is always in a shooting position in that shooting area."
Lines at Thursday's morning skate appeared as follows, with Anthony Stolarz in the starter's net for the Oilers:
Draisaitl - McDavid - Kassian
Lucic - Nugent-Hopkins - Rattie
Rieder - Cave - Chiasson
Gambardella - Gagner - Currie
Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Russell
Sekera - Benning
-- Jamie Umbach, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (34-37-9) at SHARKS (44-27-9)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight's game is the fifth and final meeting of the season between the Oilers and Sharks this season. Edmonton is 1-3 against San Jose this season, winning via OT when they first faced off in November but being outscored 19-8 in three losses since.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers just wrapped up a two-game road trip that saw them visit the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche. The squad concluded the back-to-back 0-2. They are 1-3-1 in their last five and 3-5-2 in the last 10.
Edmonton is eighth in the Pacific Division with 77 points and is 18-18-4 at Rogers Place this season.
Oilers Captain Connor McDavid rests second in League scoring with 115 points (41G, 74A), 10 back of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.
Leon Draisaitl is fourth in scoring League-wide with 102 points (47G, 55A) and is tied with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jonathan Tavares for second in goals.
Sharks team scope:
The Sharks enter Edmonton with losses in 9 of their last 10 games, going 1-8-1 over that time and being outscored 43-27. The club's power play has clicked at a 19.4 percent rating during the 10-game stretch.
In the 10 games prior to their current funk, San Jose was 8-2-0. The team currently sits second in the Pacific Division with 97 points and a Round 1 series looming versus the Vegas Golden Knights.
Forward Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks in goals with 38, while defender Brent Burns is first in team points and assists with 65 and 79, respectively. Goaltender Martin Jones is 35-19-5 in 2018-19, with a 2.95 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers are 2-4-1 in their last seven home games against the Sharks. ... McDavid and Draisaitl are the first 100-plus point teammates since the 2009-10 Washington Capitals (Ovechkin 109, Backstrom 101). ... The '18-19 season is the first to see five 100-plus point players in the NHL since '06-07 when seven players reached the number (Crosby, Thornton, Heatley, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Hossa and Sakic). ... Oilers forward Zack Kassian has 23 points in his last 41 games after registering just three in his first 36 this season. ... The Oilers own the ninth-best power play with a 21.1 percent rating.
OILERS -Jesse Puljujarvi (hip) is on IR; Jujhar Khaira (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Kyle Brodziak (undisclosed) is day-to-day.
SHARKS - Erik Karlsson (groin) is day-to-day; Radim Simek (ACL, MCL) is day-to-day.