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Under the Scope: Oilers at Sharks

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

Antero Niittymaki shut the door for 58:01 until the Oilers looked to be mounting a late offensive surge. Dustin Penner's 11th on the season brought the Oilers within one, but the Sharks held off the charging Oilers to defeat Edmonton 2-1 Tuesday night.

Nikolai Khabibulin was strong throughout the night, but a failed two-man advantage midway through the second period swung the momentum in San Jose's favour. 16 second period shots directed the way of the Oilers' goaltender was the story, as the Sharks carried the play and ultimately scored the two goals they required to earn the victory.

With the loss, Edmonton falls to 12-15-4 on the season, as the team now travels to Los Angeles for their final game before the brief two-day Christmas break.

All you need to know and more as we go Under the Scope:

With the game still scoreless near the midway portion of the second period, the Oilers were granted a tremendous opportunity to break the ice. Consecutive Sharks penalties, stamped by a Niclas Wallin minor at 8:07, put the Oilers on a two-man advantage. Edmonton failed to capitalize, as little offence was generated on the powerplay. Shortly thereafter, Taylor Hall took a minor penalty and ended the chance, as the Sharks seized momentum of the game. At 13:05, Logan Couture scored the game's first goal and put the Oilers down 1-0 in a game they had a chance to capture earlier on.

35 The Oilers won only 35% of the draws tonight. Colin Fraser and Dustin Penner carried the lowest totals with 14% and 0% efficiency rates respectively.
23 Although the offensive action was slow to develop, the physical game began at the drop of the puck. The Oilers out-hit the Sharks by a 23-15 margin this evening.
3 The Oilers had won three consecutive road games coming into tonight's matchup. With a loss recorded on the evening, the Oilers hope to turn things around on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
25 Ryan Whitney leads all NHL defencemen with 25 assists on the season.

Dan Boyle
G A P +/- Shots
1 0 1 E 3

Logan Couture 
G A P +/- Shots
1 0 1 +1 2

Ladislav Smid
G A P +/- Shots
0 0 0 -1 0

Antero Niittymaki
27 26 1 60:00 .963

Nikolai Khabibulin
30 28 2 58:30 .933

Dan Boyle - D

30:06 - 1G, E rating

Ryan Whitney - D

25:03 - 1A, +1 rating

The Oilers spent much of the middle frame in their own zone, as San Jose directed 16 shots on Nikolai Khabibulin through the course of those 20-minutes. With Edmonton on the penalty kill midway through the period, a cross-crease pass from Joe Thornton found sniper Dany Heatley at the doorstep. Khabibulin came across with a strong push and robbed the dynamic goal-scorer with an incredible left pad save. While San Jose would add the game's opening goal just moments later, the save provided a spark and certainly highlighted a period that didn't go as planned for the visitors.

On a night where the Oilers were unable to generate many high quality scoring chances, the line of Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle came to play. The trio accounted for 44% percent of the team's shots (12 of 27) on goal, and generated plenty of offensive zone attack time due to a strong willingness to compete and cycle down low. All three are deserving of the honours this evening because of a solid team game that led the offensive charge.

Ladislav Smid had one of his strongest defensive outings of the season tonight. While he was one of the few Oilers that recorded a -1 rating, Smid played 21:27 of solid stay-at-home defensive hockey. At the end of the evening, Smid also recorded two hits and one blocked shot as he went head-to-head against San Jose's top offensive guns. It was a fabulous effort from the 24-year old and certainly something to build on as the season nears the midway mark.

Both the Oilers and Sharks came to play physically tonight. Combined, the two teams recorded 38 hits (23 by Edmonton, 15 by San Jose). None, however, were more thunderous than Dan Boyle's crunch on Oilers forward Jordan Eberle. The talented rookie carried the puck up ice, where Boyle stepped up just outside the offensive blueline. He connected directly with Eberle's chest, sending them both to the ice in a heap as the HP Pavilion crowed came to life.

Although it appeared that Ryan Whitney finally scored his first goal of the season, it was later credited to Dustin Penner. Whitney has now earned 25 assists on the season -- an amazing total -- but is inching closer to Jimmy Thomson's 1947-48 record of accumulating 29 assists (in 59 games) without a goal.

"I thought the line that maybe struggled the most was the O'Marra line. Quite honestly, I thought the other three were fine. The O'Marra line had a bad giveaway in the neutral zone there, and they were able to come back and counter attack and score a goal."

-  Head Coach Tom Renney on the loss to San Jose.

Thursday December 23 vs. Los Angeles
  8:30 pm MT (SN-EDM / 630 CHED)

The Oilers will look to turn things around with a date against the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night at Staples Center. This is the final game before a brief two-day Christmas break.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |

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