EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers are coming off a confidence-boosting 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings, while the San Jose Sharks are another story. The Sharks dropped a 5-1 decision to the Dallas Stars on Monday night.
The Oilers want to match their intensity and effort from their recent win, when they host the Sharks tonight at Rexall Place.
“Keep playing for each other,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said of the message coming into tonight’s game. “Also, the guys want to play a strong game for Brossoit. We challenged the team to have the same compete level that we did against Los Angeles.”
Laurent Brossoit is making his first NHL start tonight. The 22-year-old goaltender was recalled from the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons yesterday, on an emergency basis with Richard Bachman returning to OKC for the birth of his child.
“It feels good,” said Brossoit. “It’s not something I’ve done before. It’s definitely new emotions. Either way, I’m just excited.”
The netminder played his junior hockey in this very building, for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Familiar territory is his friend tonight as he works to combat the nerves associated with his debut.
“It really is,” he said. “Coming into a situation like this, it’s pretty intimidating for anyone going into their first start but having familiar territory, room, the guys, it definitely makes it a lot easier.”
Brossoit has a 22-21-4 record with the Barons this season and has posted a 2.65 GAA and .916 save percentage. He had made 25 straight starts for OKC, prior to being recalled.
“I want him to keep the game simple, just like everybody else,” said Nelson. “Be efficient in the net and his job is to stop the first one. We have to do a good job of clearing rebounds and clearing the front of the net for him. But I think he’s pretty comfortable with the surroundings, obviously playing junior hockey here, so it’s a great opportunity for him.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon, Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Nikita Nikitin and Viktor Fasth have all been ruled out for tonight’s game.
In addition to Brossoit, another Oilers prospect will make his NHL debut against the Sharks. Curtis Hamilton, taken in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft, will play his first game as an Oiler on a line with Luke Gazdic and Rob Klinkhammer.
“It’s awesome,” said Hamilton. “I’m looking forward to it and the opportunity here. I’m familiar with a lot of the guys in the room here, so it’s been comfortable, it’s been nice.”
Hamilton is having his best professional season to date, recording 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 60 games for the Barons.
“It’s been a healthy one,” Hamilton said of the season. “That’s the main thing. Staying healthy, for the most part, this season has helped me a lot. I’m looking forward to finishing on a strong note here.”
Hamilton has seen multiple seasons shortened due to injuries in his career, suffering from knee and shoulder ailments. It has delayed his NHL debut, but the 6-foot-3, 202-pound winger says he is still young.
“I kind of have to look at it like I’m 23-years-old. I’m not a relic quite yet, but in this organization it always seems like the younger guys get an opportunity. It just seems a little longer for me, but I’m still 23,” he said.
Nelson gave an indication of what to expect from Hamilton, having coached him in OKC since 2011.
“He’s going to play a simple game tonight, go up and down his wing, we want him to finish his checks and be on the right side of the puck all night, no different than the rest of the guys. He has the ability to make some plays. When he gets a chance to shoot, shoot the puck because he has a pretty strong shot,” said Nelson.
THE EDMONTON BARONS
Nelson may do a double take during warmups tonight as the Oilers hit the ice before their game against the Sharks. The Oilers interim coach worked with 13 players who will skate tonight for the orange and blue in Oklahoma City. Injured centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes 14 players who have played for the Barons to be on the Oilers roster tonight (he will not play). Iiro Pakarinen would make 15, but he is on IR.
“I made the joke that I felt like I was in Penticton (B.C.) on the ice today, at the Young Stars Tournament,” said Nelson. “I have comfort, and I think the players coming up have comfort playing for me down in the minors and now they’re getting an opportunity to come up. It’s not so foreign. They know what I expect, they know how I am as a coach so I think the transition for them should be simpler.”
No matter the make of the roster, the Oilers are focused on ending their home schedule on a high note.
“I think it’s very important to play a strong game in front of our home crowd,” said Nelson. “We had a good game the last time we played here and I think it’s important for the team moving into next year.”
QUICK NOTES: The last time these teams faced each other was February 2, when the Oilers won 5-4 in a shootout. Taylor Hall has points in seven of his last 10 games. Benoit Pouliot scored last game to give him a career high 18 goals on the season. San Jose defenceman Taylor Fedun will face his old club tonight, as he played four games for the Oilers last season (2-0-2, 0 PIM, -1). Chris Tierney is on a four-game point streak. Patrick Marleau played both his first and 1,100th NHL games against the Oilers.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
SHARKS (39-32-9) at OILERS (24-43-13)
TV: SN360, CSN-CA PLUS
Season series: San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski has four goals and an assist in four games against the Edmonton Oilers this season; Oilers forward Jordan Eberle has three goals and two assists against the sharks. The Sharks are 2-1-1 against the Oilers, but Edmonton won the most recent game, 5-4 on Feb. 2 in a 13-round shootout.
Sharks team scope: San Jose's visit to Edmonton is the first half of a season-ending two-game trip for the Sharks, who will be staying home this spring for the first time since 2003. The Sharks lost 5-1 to the Dallas Stars on Monday in their final home game. "It stinks. There's nothing else you can really say," Logan Couture told the Sharks' website after the game. "As hockey players, you want to give yourself an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We're not going to have that chance this year." The Sharks reassigned forward Barclay Goodrow to the Worcester Sharks of the AHL Monday. Goodrow had four goals and eight assists in 60 games with San Jose this season.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton recalled goalie Laurent Brossoit, who will make his NHL debut against the Sharks in the Oilers' home finale. Brossoit, who has a 2.65 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 49 games with Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League, has started 25 consecutive games. "It was a very heavy workload for him," Oilers coach Todd Nelson told Edmonton's website after practice Wednesday. "When you play back-to-backs and three-in-threes it takes a toll on everybody, but especially goalies. But he's a big strong guy, he's very athletic and he handled it fine, and I know for a fact that he'll be very excited to play tomorrow." Edmonton also recalled forward Curtis Hamilton, who is expected to step in for a banged-up Matt Hendricks. In addition to Hendricks, Andrew Ference (concussion), Boyd Gordon (back) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (lower-body injury) did not practice Wednesday. The Oilers' 4-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday locked them into 28th place in the NHL's overall standings.