EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers may be riding high from their recent road trip, having gone 3-1 against Buffalo, Philadelphia, Columbus and Winnipeg, but the Sharks have some momentum of their own as they visit Rexall Place. San Jose is 4-1 in their last five games, as they continue to battle for playoff positioning.
The Oilers are all too familiar with their Pacific Division foe. They’ve split the season series thus far, with both games going past regulation.
“A lot of challenges,” Oilers forward Patrick Maroon said on the Sharks. “Their back end is really good. They create a lot of scoring chances. That top line is really good too with (Joe) Pavelski and (Joe) Thornton. We have to stay out of the box. We know their power play is tremendous, so I think for us it’s about staying out of the box, playing simple, playing hard and being big and physical.”
While the Oilers and Sharks have seen each other two times previously this season, they have yet to face off with Edmonton’s new-look roster that features more size and grit following the NHL Trade Deadline. Maroon is included in that list of newcomers who are contributing to the lineup and helping the Oilers build a new identity.
“I think if you look at our conference and the size that we have in it, I think you need size to play in this conference and win and be successful,” said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle. “Obviously, Peter (Chiarelli) has recognized that and added some size, and ever since we’ve started to have a little bit of success. I know we’ve played East teams and it’s going to change here in the next little bit with the West teams, but as a group we have a little bit of a mojo to us right now. We feel like we’re starting to create a little bit of an identity, from the big guys to the little guys. You want to play competitive and in-your-face and be a team that when the opponents face up against you, you know that it’s going to be a challenge and you’re not going to get backed down.”
SEARCHING FOR CONSISTENCY
With Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson out with a lower-body injury, Edmonton recalled Griffin Reinhart from the Bakersfield Condors. Reinhart, who has played 15 games for the Oilers this season, is searching for some consistency in his game so that he can stick in Edmonton.
Reinhart, taken fourth overall in 2012 by the Islanders, knows what he can bring to the table.
“I think the last time I was called up, for the game against Nashville, I played assertive, I played strong, I played intense and I was making quicker plays,” said Reinhart. “That’s what I need to do more often. It was an unfortunate I didn’t last here and it didn’t go the way I wanted. It’s unfortunate guys are hurt but it’s an opportunity for me and I’ve got to approach it that way.”
Playing assertive with consistency is something Reinhart understands is in between him and an NHL spot for good.
“I think right now, that’s the what is separating me from being an every-day player,” he said. “I think that I have it and I know I can play in this league, but it’s something I have to find and be able to do it every day on a consistent basis.”
“He’s come up in the past and given us some good games and then responded down the road with one or two average ones,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “We’ve stressed that to him as an organization, not only here at the NHL level, but at the American League level. He can give you some real good nights and then he’s got to respond and maintain that. That’s what we’ll be looking for.”
Reinhart is still only 22 years old, and the Oilers have exercised patience with the big blueliner.
“I think it’s immaturity a little bit, it’s adjusting and for some guys it happens quicker for them than others,” said McLellan. “Griffin might end up being a tremendous NHL defenceman, it just might take him a little longer. Everybody has their ripening stage, if you will, and we’ll see what he can do now.”
“I think maybe I’ve just developed a little slower that way, but I know that I have it,” Reinhart said. “I think I’ve been showing it down in the AHL a bit and I’m ready to try to make that big step.”
Reinhart had a goal and two assists in 10 games since being reassigned to the Condors.
The Oilers lineup at morning skate looked like the one they finished the game with in Winnipeg. Lauri Korpikoski is on a line with Connor McDavid and Eberle. Reinhart is the addition with Davidson coming out. Per McLellan, the Oilers will begin the game with Reinhart on the left and Adam Pardy on the right in that pairing but all of the pairings are subject to change.
Season series: The San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers have split the first two of this four-game series, with each going beyond regulation. San Jose won 2-1 in a shootout at SAP Center on Jan. 14; Taylor Hall's overtime goal gave Edmonton a 4-3 victory at Rexall Place on Dec. 9.
Sharks team scope: San Jose will play its second game in Alberta in as many nights after a 2-1 overtime win at the Calgary Flames on Monday. The Sharks have won three of their past four games and are 18-5-4 since Jan. 9. Goalie James Reimer likely will start Tuesday after Martin Jones made an NHL career-high 47 saves against the Flames. Brent Burns has scored in four straight games; he's the first defenseman to score more than 23 goals in a season since Mike Green had 31 with the Washington Capitals in 2008-09. Joe Pavelski's goal Monday was his 30th of the season; he leads the NHL with nine game-winners. "Right now, you've got to keep pace with everybody," Pavelski said. "Everybody's playing good. We understand our game's got to improve over the last week, week and a half. It can get better."
Oilers team scope: Edmonton returns to Rexall Place after going 3-1-0 on a four-game road trip that was capped with a 2-1 win at the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. The Oilers will be without defenseman Brandon Davidson, who was injured in the first period in Winnipeg. "Without knowing the results and just listening to the trainers talk, I think [Davidson's] going to be a bit more long-term than short-term," coach Todd McLellan told the Oilers website. "We're hoping for positive results, but we won't know until later [Monday]." The Oilers are hopeful defenseman Oscar Klefbom will be able to play Tuesday; he hasn't played since Dec. 11 because of various injuries. "That's an exciting sign for us," McLellan said. "As we lose [Davidson], to see [Klefbom] in full hockey equipment going through some of the drills, that's something we've all been looking forward to." Edmonton recalled defenseman Griffin Reinhart from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Monday. Goalie Cam Talbot is expected to start; he has won his past four starts and has a .979 save percentage over that span.