EDMONTON, AB - Tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks has a lot of meaning for the Oilers. Edmonton, who has won three straight and four of their last five, is trying to keep their hot streak going. They’re also trying to gain points on a team ahead of them in the division standings. Last, but not least, Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan goes against his former team for the first time with his new one.
“It’s different,” said McLellan. “I can downplay it, but it’s different. I probably know that team better than I know our team here in Edmonton right now, at least personally and family-wise, what a lot of those players and individuals have gone through. I was invested with them. But once it gets going, we have a responsibility here to continue on with a good home streak, to play good hockey and beat a very good hockey club. That’s where the focus will be.”
Knowing their coach is facing his former team for the first time does provide a bit of extra motivation for the club.
“We’ll definitely be putting our best foot forward tonight,” said Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson. “Anything we can do to get this win here tonight, we’ll do that.”
Edmonton is trying to keep their hot streak alive and a big reason why they are having success is a familiarity with McLellan and his systems, now close to 30 games into the season. The club is also dealing with success and winning better than they have in the past.
“I think we’re starting to get things in place a little bit more,” said McLellan. “I don’t think early in the year we got comfortable, we got cocky or arrogant by any means. We’re not at that. Earlier in the year, if we won one or two, we were still trying to get our systems in place, we’re trying to figure out players. I think we’re a little more set right now, if that makes any sense, with how we want to play certain situations. So we’re playing better in those areas. Big test for us tonight and I expect us to pass it.”
The Sharks will play their fifth game of the month, just nine days in, when they suit up against the Oilers tonight. They are also coming off a 4-2 loss in Calgary last night. Jumping on a team with tired legs will be key to an Oilers victory.
“That’s the plan. It’s executing the plan,” said McLellan. “I think of possession right off the bat, and that’s faceoffs. I know that team. They’re very good. They’re either one or two in the league right now. To go after a tired team, it’s nice to have the puck and put it in certain areas to get after them. If you don’t have the puck, they in turn are getting let off the hook. So faceoffs are going to be important and puck placement.”
FAYNE ON WAIVERS
The Oilers announced this morning that they placed veteran blueliner Mark Fayne on waivers, for purpose of assignment to Bakersfield in the AHL.
“I don’t know if he’ll get to the American League. He’ll have to clear waivers, and if he does we’re sending him down there to get a lot of minutes, get his game back, pace, execution, confidence, and find his way back here,” said McLellan.
The move opens the door for a young defenceman like Davidson to continue to grow and get more minutes.
“I think that’s the situation,” said Davidson. “Mark Fayne is a great hockey player and an even better guy. It sucks to see those things happen. At the same time, maybe it’s for the best and maybe they’re giving me the opportunity to play more minutes and be more effective. But like I said, you never want to see that happen to a guy.”
The Oilers have been very impressed with their 2010 sixth-round pick. He has grown a lot since McLellan got his first look at him in training camp.
“One, I thought he could skate,” said McLellan. “Two, he was as competitive a player as we had on the blueline, which was a really good thing to see. He does play with a physical edge. He has some size, he’s a pretty good penalty killer, and we feel confident when he’s on the ice. I think his game has shown that. We’ve been able to all watch him grow and develop from the beginning of the year until Christmas. He didn’t start in our lineup, and now he’s forced his way in every night. Missed a couple games recently because of injury, not because of play.”
The Oilers lineup at morning skate looked as follows:
Season series: The San Jose Sharks went 3-1-1 against the Edmonton Oilers last season. Joe Thornton (five assists), Joe Pavelski (four goals, one assist) and Patrick Marleau (one goal, four assists) each had five points for San Jose. Jordan Eberle had three goals and two assists for Edmonton.
Sharks team scope: San Jose could turn to backup goalie Alex Stalock after Martin Jones was pulled after allowing three goals on 14 shots in 23:11 of a 4-2 loss at the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. Stalock made 18 saves on 19 shots. Center Logan Couture had an assist in 12:38 of ice time in his first game since Oct. 13; he missed 23 games with a fractured right fibula. "He's obviously pushing to get back in, and I give him a lot of courage for coming out and doing that," coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area after the game. "I can count on one hand the number of practices he's had. We knew that he was going to have to work himself in, and that's what it looked like tonight." The Sharks have lost a season-high four straight games and could be without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury. San Jose has scored six goals in four games.
Oilers team scope: Todd McLellan will coach against his former team for the first time since he left San Jose after last season. McLellan coached the Sharks for seven seasons from 2008-15 and had a record of 311-163-66. "It's always a different night when you go back and play against your old team," McLellan told the Oilers website after practice Tuesday. "San Jose was a long period for myself and my family there, and we absolutely loved it. But when the puck is dropped, our job is to go out there and win a game, and that's what we will try to do." The Oilers, who host the New York Rangers on Friday, will try for their first four-game winning streak of the season and first five-game winning streak at home since 2008. "These are two big home games. We want to get these wins," defenseman Justin Schultz said. "Climbing back up in the standings is huge. We have some confidence right now, which is nice. ... It's going to be a test, but we've proven we can play with these teams."