SAN JOSE, CA - The Oilers head into a pivotal Game 4 in San Jose tonight where they could take a commanding 3-1 series lead with a victory heading home to Rogers Place for Game 5.
Alternatively, the Sharks with a win would turn this into a best-of-three series knotted up at 2-2. The stakes are high in this one.
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan expects to see the best from the Sharks tonight.
"They will play like they always play. They'll have a hard push right off the bat. They'll be determined. They've got tons and tons of experience over there and they'll rely on that. They will make our job tougher tonight," McLellan stated, adding that despite the Oilers series lead he doesn't believe either team has shown a real edge at this point.
"The series is only 2-1," said McLellan. "It could be 3-0 either way, really, the way the games have gone. By no means is one team ahead or the other behind."
Zack Kassian added that he feels the Oilers are going to see the Sharks best game tonight.
"We need to match that or better that. This is a big game and it would be nice to win this and bring it back to Edmonton (up 3-1)," he said. "During a long playoff (season) you're not going to win all 16 but there's going to be ups and downs. I thought we adapted. We fixed things we needed to and that was promising for our group. We've played a game in here now, all of us, we know what to expect from the crowd and the starts they have. It's up to us to learn from that last game and be better this game."
Through three games, the two teams have scored a total of eight goals and five of those goals were in Game 1. Coach McLellan was asked about the games down the stretch the Oilers played and how well they prepared them for defensive battles such as the one encountered in Game 3.
"We played against teams that we were competing against for positioning in our conference and particularly in our division. San Jose, Anaheim, those types of teams - even L.A. when they were battling," McLellan began.
"It helped us for that tight-checking playoff mentality. I believe it's carried over but more importantly the players have bought into how these games are played. We didn't get quite get it in Game 1 but figured it out for 2 and 3. We have to stay on task. We can't get loose now and try to reinvent the game. We've got to get better offensively."
Patrick Maroon echoed the sentiments of his head coach and talked a bit about the struggles of his line with McDavid and Draisaitl to generate offence.
"It's tight checking out there. There's not a lot of room, not a lot of space. Certainly I can be a lot better, I think, but that's the nature of playoff hockey. You've just got to keep grinding and create scoring chances," Maroon noted.
"We've been creating chances. The offence is going to come. It's like the regular season where you go through spurts where you don't get a lot of chances and last game I had some chances but sometimes they don't go in. For me, I've just got to continue what I'm doing, play big and strong."
WHERE WILL DRAISAITL PLAY?
It was an optional skate this morning and Draisaitl did not participate so everyone was left guessing on what McLellan might do with his lineup tonight. When asked, McLellan simply said there was a good chance that Draisaitl would start the game on the top line but added there's no guarantee he stays there.
"You go with your gut during the game. You move players around so you think it can help your team. With Leon going to the middle, he's going home. He's going back to where he's played his whole life," McLellan said of moving Draisaitl to centre to play with Kassian and Drake Caggiula.
"It's not a dramatic move by any means. We'll see where we play him and how the game is going."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (2-1) at SHARKS (1-2)
TV: 8:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet
The Oilers step into the Shark Tank one more time with a chance to head home with a stranglehold on the series but judging by how the last two games have gone, it won't be easy.
OILERS KEYS TO SUCCESS:
STEADY HAND ON D: The Oilers have been so successful the last two games because they haven't given the Sharks much to work with. That'll need to continue tonight.
SPREAD IT AROUND: The Sharks have done a great job shutting down Connor McDavid. The Oilers have succeeded because they've found goals in unlikely places (i.e. Zack Kassian).
DISCIPLINE: The Oilers were much better at staying out of the box on Sunday and that will need to continue moving into Tuesday's game.
Edmonton: The Oilers are healthy with the exception of Tyler Pitlick, who's out for the season.
San Jose: The Sharks have no notable absences from their lineup, though Joe Thornton (lower body) and Logan Couture (face) are not playing at 100%.
Goaltender Cam Talbot registered a second consecutive shutout on Apr. 16, with 23 saves in a 1-0 win over San Jose. On Apr. 14, 2017 vs. San Jose, he made 16 saves to earn his first career NHL playoff shutout, and become the sixth Oilers goaltender to register a playoff shutout. Talbot became the first Oilers goaltender with back-to-back shutouts since Curtis Joseph on April 30 and May 2 in 1998. The NHL record is three consecutive shutouts belongs to seven goaltenders, most recently by Ilya Bryzgalov, with Anaheim, on May 3, 5 and 7, in 2006.
When leading a series two games to one, the Oilers have an all-time series record of 16-2. When trailing a series two games to one, the Sharks have an all-time series record of 3-10 with an active four-series losing streak. Edmonton's record in Game 4 in these situations is 13-5 while San Jose's record in Game 4 when trailing 2-1 is 8-5.
All-time in NHL history, the team leading two games to one in a best-of-seven series has a record of 327-141 (.699) to win the series but only 221-247 (.472) to win Game 4.
"I thought he was fine. We put him back to his customary position, which is nice to have. It's a luxury that for seven years we had here in San Jose when I was with this team. You could move guys around but you could always throw somebody back into that centre ice position. And we needed it last night. it was not - as I mentioned after the game - it was not a demotion as some would read. You're going off that top line that's been a tremendous line for us for a few months now. It was something the team needed." -- Oilers head coach Todd McLellan talking about shifting Leon Draisaitl from top line right wing to centre with Caggiula and Kassian
Oilers lead best-of-seven series 2-1
Apr 12: San Jose 3 at Edmonton 2 (OT) Apr 14: San Jose 0 at Edmonton 2 Apr 16: Edmonton 1 at San Jose 0 Apr 18: Edmonton at San Jose - 8:00 p.m. MDT Apr 20: San Jose at Edmonton - TBD Apr 22: Edmonton at San Jose - TBD Apr 24: San Jose at Edmonton - TBD
Edmonton won the season series this year 3-1-1
Dec 23: Edmonton 2 at San Jose 3 (OT) Jan 10: San Jose 5 at Edmonton 3 Jan 26: Edmonton 4 at San Jose 1 Mar 30: San Jose 2 at Edmonton 3 Apr 6: Edmonton 4 at San Jose 2
In 2006, Edmonton defeated San Jose 4 games to 2 in the only playoff match-up between the two teams
May 7: Edmonton 1 at San Jose 2 May 8: Edmonton 1 at San Jose 2 May 10: San Jose 2 at Edmonton 3 (3OT) May 12: San Jose 3 at Edmonton 6 May 14: Edmonton 6 at San Jose 3 May 17: San Jose 0 at Edmonton 2