The Edmonton Oilers, 4-14-2 on the season, host the San Jose Sharks (12-2-5) tonight and the Oilers made no secret that it will be a tough task to stop their opponent's vicious power play.
"We're going to have to be on our game tonight and this is a strong, strong team," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "They have a power play with so many different looks that sometimes you don't know where to start with it. They're creative and deadly on that. We can't get into another night where we're taking five or six different penalties, the ones that don't do anything like the tripping and the holding and hooking penalties. They don't do anything. It's either you're inflicting some pain, or you're saving a goal. That's the way it goes on the penalties.
"This is one of the top teams in the league, for me just looking at the tape. They're very impressive with the pace they play, with the heaviness of their game. They play a hard, hard game and this is what we have to aspire to be. We can't have any passengers tonight. It has to be everybody all-in."
Oilers forward Taylor Hall called the Sharks the best team in the league.
"I've watched a lot of hockey this year and they're probably the best team I've seen," said Hall. "They have so many weapons on their team and their power play is so good. We have to keep them off the ice and as far as their team goes, they have a lot of depth in their forwards and their (defence) is awesome. It's going to be a tough test for us tonight but you never know, if we can win this game it would be a real great starting point for us. We usually do pretty well against them, it'd be great."
The Sharks have a power play that is ranked in the top ten in the league and scores at a 21.4% clip with 18 power play goals.
"It's one of the best teams in the league for sure," said forward David Perron. "Their power play is really, really good. We're going to have to stay out of the box. They have guys who can make plays through anything… We have to be smart with the way we play. We want to get one early to end that drought. At the same time, we have to be really smart and play the game the right way. The good stuff is going to happen after."
GETTING THAT FIRST ONE
For the first time in franchise history, the Oilers have been shutout at home in three straight games. They look to break that streak tonight and the importance of getting that first goal continues to grow. The Oilers will be looking to get the crowd on their side from the opening period, knowing that when the team isn't performing well, the fans can effect the game.
"I didn't think it had an effect on us last game," said Eakins. "I think because we were in the game, the fans were with us. With the games where we've gotten down, things have turned a different way. I'm not going to lie, that's a tough place to play when you're getting it from your own fans. Anyone who tells you it doesn't effect me, that's an utter lie. It has to effect you. But I thought last game, our crowd was with us and it was because we were in the game. The main thing is to be in the game and, once again, if we can score first that is going to help."
"The fans are acting the way they should," said Perron. "They're not pleased with the way things are going. I think if I'd be sitting in the stands, I'd probably be doing the same. We want it to change in this room. It's all of the guys that's going to have to do it. It's nothing the coach is doing wrong or the GM or whatever. It's the guys in here. We know we can do it and we have to turn this thing around."
It's tough," said Hall. "You want to give your fans something to cheer about. Not scoring, it's hard."
LOOKING TO GET DIRTY
The Oilers are hoping that they can change their fortune around when it comes to scoring greasy goals from the hard areas of the ice.
One of the forward lines that could help do that is the David Perron-Boyd Gordon-Ryan Smyth trio.
"Just get a greasy one," said Perron. "It looks like I'll be playing with (Smyth) and (Gordon). Our line is going to be looking to create pressure in the (offensive zone) and play a real good defensive game too."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
SHARKS (12-2-5) at OILERS (4-14-2)
TV: TSN; CSN-CA
Last 10: San Jose 4-2-4; Edmonton 1-8-1
Season series: The Pacific Division rivals play the first of five games this season. The San Jose Sharks swept three games against the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13 and have won their past three visits to Rexall Place.
Big story: The Sharks have won back-to-back games in Western Canada after a five-game losing streak. The Oilers are just trying to figure out how to put the puck in the net; they've been blanked in three consecutive home games, including a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.
Sharks: San Jose went from no points to two points in a big hurry on Thursday. They trailed the Vancouver Canucks 1-0 with time running out before rookie Thomas Hertl scored the tying goal with 1:05 to play. Hertl's goal came after defenseman Dan Boyle's misfire came right to him. Boyle made no mistake in overtime, blasting a perfect power-play shot past Roberto Luongo for the winner.
"That one I put it where I wanted it," Boyle said of a shot that bounced off the back post and out so quickly it took a review to confirm a goal. "The power play needed to come through. We actually struggled quite a bit against Vancouver through three games but got a huge one."
Oilers: With four wins in 20 games and no goals in his team's past three home games, general manager faced the media in a "State of the Franchise" session Thursday. MacTavish has traded away veteran defenseman Ladislav Smid and signed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, but he said there could be more changes coming. Those changes, he said, aren't likely to include the team's youthful core but could include a high draft pick.
"I don't view another first-round draft choice to be what we need going into the latter part of this year or next year," he said.
One area where MacTavish said there won't be a change is behind the bench, where new coach Dallas Eakins got a vote of confidence.
"It's easy to say I have the upmost confidence in the coaching staff," he said. "It's harder for you guys to believe that because of the situation we're in. What this team needs is the continuity in coaching and they're going to get it. I'm completely supportive on how [Eakins has] handled the players, the team and the direction of the team."
Who's hot: Hertl's goal was his 11th of the season, tops among all rookies. … Jordan Eberle has five points in the Oilers' past five games.