The Oilers battle the San Jose Sharks tonight in a game that could determine which of these teams get home-ice advantage in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It could also be a first-round playoff preview.
You can watch tonight's game on Sportsnet West or listen via 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.
Read the game preview and check back throughout the day for videos, lineup updates, our Morning Skate Report and more.
SAN JOSE, CA - It's the biggest game of the season.
That's been the mantra heading into most games this season, particularly down the stretch as the Oilers have tackled Pacific Division rival after Pacific Division rival over the past two weeks.
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan doesn't disagree with the assessment that tonight is, in fact, the biggest game of the season but says games are only going to get bigger as the season goes on.
"I like the fact that we're still in competitive games," said McLellan. "I don't know where we'll be Saturday or Sunday against Vancouver but there's still very meaningful games. The players will be very alert and sharp and ready to play and pushing themselves. If these games dwindle down to the point where they don't mean anything you're always concerned about their approach to the game and certain situations. I like the fact that it's important."
What is on the line tonight for the Oilers in their game at SAP Center in San Jose is home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If the Oilers can win tonight, all they need is a win in one of their two games against the Canucks to ensure that they're opening the playoffs at Rogers Place. If they win tonight in regulation, they just need one more single solitary point to make that happen.
"It means less travel," said McLellan of home ice advantage. "It means being in your bed a little bit more. It means having the seventh man behind you on a nightly basis which is something we'd like to have, obviously. The energy in our building has been immense over the last month in the run to the playoffs It means having last change.
"But it doesn't guarantee you wins, it doesn't guarantee you losses. You play the same layout of arena and the opposition that we'll face will likely have a lot more experience than we will regardless of who it is, so they'll be quite comfortable on the road if that's the case."
If the Oilers do win tonight and both games this weekend against the Canucks, there's a chance they can still win the division title with a little bit of help from Anaheim losses. But if that doesn't happen, their first-round playoff opponent will almost assuredly be the San Jose Sharks. So tonight is a chance to start laying some groundwork.
"We're still in a good spot. I think everyone can agree on that," said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. "It's a big game tonight to figure out who gets home ice advantage but we still have an extra game in hand which helps. It's almost like a little game one here."
McLellan echoed the thoughts of his captain.
"I don't think either team is going to tip their hats," he said. "Odds are we're going to play this team in the playoffs so I don't think there are going to be a lot of new formations, faceoff alignments or what-not as the game goes on."
The most important thing for the Oilers tonight is to bounce back from Tuesday's loss to the Kings.
"I think we were fortunate to have a 2-0 lead (after the first period on Tuesday). We found a way to score two goals but we were giving up Grade A chances. We weren't playing very well and were fortunate to be up two and it came back to bite us," McDavid remarked.
Coach McLellan mentioned it after the game on Tuesday and reiterated those thoughts today.
"We'd like to improve our play heading into the playoffs. I don't think we took that step the other night in Los Angeles. We were either stationary or took a step back. We have to respond with a better effort."
Based on morning skate, it looks like the Oilers are going to have Iiro Pakarinen return to the lineup for the first time since March 23 at Colorado with Anton Slepyshev drawing out. The blueline will look the same as it did Tuesday and Cam Talbot will of course start in goal, seeking a franchise-record win number 41.
Klefbom - Larsson Sekera - Russell Nurse - Benning
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (44-26-9) at SHARKS (45-28-7)
TV: 8:30 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight's game marks the fifth and final meeting between the Oilers and Sharks this season and the third and final game in San Jose. The last time these teams met in San Jose was on January 26th, when the Oilers defeated the Sharks 4-1. Andrej Sekera scored twice while Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid each posted two-point efforts in the win.
The last time these teams met was on March 30th in Edmonton when the Oilers defeated the Sharks by a score of 3-2. Patrick Maroon scored twice in the win while Connor McDavid also recorded a two-point night.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are tied with the Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division with 97 points. If they end the season tied with San Jose in points, the Sharks have the tiebreaker by virtue of more regulation and overtime wins. However, after tonight the Oilers still have two games left in their season and San Jose only has one.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are both on 11-game point streaks. The last time an Oiler has posted an 11 game point streak or longer was Andrei Kovalenko in 1996 when he posted an 11 game point streak (12/12/1996 01/07/1997).
The last time an Oilers player has held a point streak longer than 11 games was in 1989 Esa Tikkanen (13 games - 02/17 03/15) and Mark Messier (12 games - 02/19 03/15).
McDavid has posted six multi-point efforts in that 11-game span, three of which were three-point games. In all, he has six goals and 19 points in these past 11 games. McDavid is now only five points from 100 and has a seven point lead in the NHL scoring race, with 95 points (29G, 66A) in 79 games, ahead of Patrick Kane (CHI). McDavid has led the league in scoring at some point in all four months of the 2016-17 season. He has led or co-led the NHL in scoring since Nov. 22, 2016.
Draisaitl has moved into eighth spot in NHL scoring, on the strength of his 11-game scoring streak, totaling 19 points (5G, 14A). The native of Cologne, Germany has now amassed 75 points (27G, 48A) through 79 games, setting career highs for points, goals and assists. In his last 11 games, he has recorded seven multi-point efforts.
The last time the Oilers finished an NHL season with two top ten scorers was in 1988-89 (Jari Kurri - 8th, Jimmy Carson - 9th); The last time the Oilers finished an NHL season with two top 25 scorers was in 1991-92 (Vincent Damphousse - 18th, Joe Murphy - 25th).
Draisaitl has 18 multi-point games in 2016-17, ranking him 11th overall in the NHL.
Sharks team scope:
Tonight is Game 81 for the San Jose Sharks with only one game left (Saturday night against the Flames). If the Oilers win tonight, they can guarantee they finish ahead of the Sharks by gaining a point in either weekend Vancouver game and that's even if San Jose wins over the Flames.
If the Sharks win tonight, they can guarantee they finish ahead of the Oilers with a win against Calgary. If they lose to the Flames, the Oilers can overtake the Sharks if they win both games against the Canucks. The Oilers and Sharks could both still grab first in the division but it would involve Anaheim losing both their remaining two games (against Chicago and L.A.) plus either Edmonton or San Jose winning out.
Regardless, it appears that the most likely first-round playoff matchup will be Edmonton versus San Jose with tonight's game more or less determining home ice advantage in that series aside from a few of the aforementioned outlying scenarios.
Key players up front for the Sharks will not play tonight. Joe Thornton and Logan Couture have both been injured in recent games and won't dress tonight. Both players have said they'll be back for the playoffs, however.
Leading the way for the Sharks in scoring this season has been defenceman Brent Burns. Burns has 28 goals and 74 points in 80 games to lead all NHL defencemen in both categories.
Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks in goals with 29 and is second on the team in points with 68.