EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers swim with the San Jose Sharks Thursday night at Rogers Place. After clinching a playoff berth on Tuesday against Los Angeles in what was an emotional and fast-paced game, Edmonton will follow it up with what could be a playoff preview. The two teams will link up again next Thursday in San Jose to conclude the season series.
"The two games against San Jose are big games for us," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "(Will there be) message sending? No. Improving your game? Yes. Do you show them everything you want to show them? Probably not."
The Oilers and Sharks are in a second-place skirmish among the Pacific Division. Both teams have 93 points and are two back of the division-leading Anaheim Ducks. At the end of the day, the Oil has another opportunity to execute their game plan against a division rival.
"We're just going to play our game," said McLellan. "We're going to try to make some adjustments that we think will help us against this team. They'll be minor, they probably won't even be noticeable and we're going to play."
SHARKS TREADING WATER
The Sharks are limping into tonight's contest. The team is 1-6-0 in their last seven games and have scored only 12 goals during that span, with five of them stemming from their 5-4 overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
San Jose hasn't won in regulation since March 14, when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-1. After that game, the club was 42-20-7 with 91 points. At that time, the Oilers were 10 points behind San Jose with 81 points of their own.
"It's a miniseries with two of our last six games against this team and even a potential first round matchup, so (there's) a lot on the line playing against these guys," said Oilers forward Milan Lucic. "We know that they're a real good team that got a big win for themselves in their last home game against the Rangers."
Martin Jones is also struggling of late. The netminder is 1-3-0 with a 4.04 goals-against average and .862 save percentage over his last four starts.
Even though they are in a rut, the Oilers are aware of San Jose's capability. Edmonton isn't looking to prove anything to their opponents, however, it's more about proving they can compete to themselves.
"It's more so just building it for yourself and making yourself believe that you can compete with a high-end team like the San Jose Sharks who have been a high-end team since I can remember," said Lucic. "They're just ready and waiting for the playoffs to start and for us, we want to keep improving and keep showing ourselves that we can hang in with the top teams in the division and top teams in the West."
The last time these teams faced each other, Edmonton drowned San Jose 4-1.
"It's more so making ourselves believe that we can keep up with them because we know they're going bring it, it's just a matter of us doing the same."
It appears as though Edmonton will ice the same forward lineup that they did when they clinched a playoff bid Tuesday against Los Angeles. The only change to the lineup will be Matt Benning returning on the blueline.
Benning was injured in Saturday's match against the Avs, taking a shot in a sensitive area of his leg. He will slot in for Eric Gryba.
The lineup appears to be:
Maroon - McDavid - Draisaitl
Lucic - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Pouliot - Desharnais - Kassian
Caggiula - Letestu - Slepyshev
Klefbom - Larsson
Sekera - Russell
Nurse - Benning
-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (42-25-9) vs. SHARKS (43-26-7)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet West
This is the fourth of five meetings between the Oilers and Sharks this season and the second and final game in Edmonton. These teams will face each other again on April 6th in San Jose.
The last time these teams met was on January 26th in San Jose when the Oilers defeated the Sharks by a score of 4-1. Andrej Sekera scored twice for the Oilers, while Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl each posted two point efforts.
Oilers team scope:
With their win over Los Angeles on Mar. 28, the Edmonton Oilers qualified for the NHL post-season for the first time since 2005-06. The Oilers are one of 10 teams to have punched their tickets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This season, 2016-17, will mark the 21st appearance in the NHL post-season for the Oilers.
The last time the Oilers finished in the NHL top 10 was in 1989-90, when the team finished fifth. The Oilers finished 11th in 1990-91 and 12th in 1991-92 and 2000-01.
The last time the Oilers had 42 wins or more in a season was in 1987-88.
Next up for the Oilers is playoff positioning. They are two points behind Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division and tied with tonight's opponent, the Sharks, for second.
Head Coach Todd McLellan is at 698 regular season games coached in a head coaching capacity in the NHL. That ranks him 47th all-time in NHL history, and 14th among active head coaches. Fred Shero ranks 13th, with 734 games.
In nine NHL seasons as a head coach, McLellan has a 384-231-83 record, for a .610 winning percentage. That ranks as the fourth best winning record among active NHL coaches, only trailing Bruce Boudreau (.657), Dan Bylsma (.619) and Joel Quenneville (.619), and just ahead of Mike Babcock (609).
With 42 wins this season, McLellan has also become only the second coach in Oilers history to reach that mark in a season. Glen Sather reached 42 wins on seven occasions (1981-88) Craig MacTavish reached 41 wins in 2005-06, the last time the Oilers reached the post-season.
Sharks team scope:
The Sharks are coming off a huge come-from-behind win on Tuesday night at home against the New York Rangers, defeating them 5-4 in overtime. Prior to that win, the Sharks had lost six games in a row and were outscored 23-7 in those contests.
San Jose has dropped each of its last four road games and are 6-8-0 in the month of March. Their slide has enabled the Oilers to catch them in the standings and has resulted in the Anaheim Ducks vaulting into top spot in the Pacific.
Brent Burns leads the Sharks with 73 points in 76 games. He is eighth in NHL scoring and tops among NHL blueliners. Burns has 28 goals which is 11 more than Shea Weber who ranks second among D-men.
Joe Pavelski is tied with Burns for the Sharks lead in goal scoring with 28 and his second on the team in points with 65, in 76 games played.
Joe Thornton has only seven goals this season but with 43 assists he has 50 points in 76 games. Thornton remarkably has only 78 shots on goal this season. Contrasted with Burns who leads the team (and the entire NHL, for that matter) with 298 shots it's quite a difference.
San Jose is 24th in the NHL on the power play at 17.2% and tied for 17th on the penalty kill at 80.5%. The Sharks have scored an equal 66 goals in each of the first, second and third period. However, defensively they regress as the game goes on. The Sharks have allowed only 49 first-period goals, 58 second-period goals and 72 in the third.