Oilers Look To End Struggles In San Jose Tonight
The Oilers’ struggles continued Thursday night in a 4-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, being outshot 42-20. Having four days off before the game could either be a good thing or a bad thing, and for the Oilers, it was a bad thing. They couldn’t get their legs going and the Coyotes coasted past them as if they were nothing. Tonight, the Oilers (14-14-3) look to get back on the right track after two straight losses as they take on the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks (16-10-3) come into the game tonight after a 5-4 win against the Colorado Avalanche, a game in which they had to overcome a two-goal deficit. It finally was vindication for the squad, as their previous two games resulted in losses to the Avalanche and the Blackhawks after blowing third-period leads in both games.
It’ll be interesting to see how this season series goes, as the Sharks have dominated the Oilers the past three seasons, going 9-3 in their 12 meetings. But the Oilers are no longer the whipping boys of the NHL, so the game tonight won’t be a blowout. In fact, the Oilers hope to have the edge in their special teams, which have been more impressive than the Sharks’ lately. The Oilers’ power play is 33% in the last three games, going 4/12. In those games, they’ve killed off 12 of 13 penalties.
On the other hand, the Sharks’ special teams have struggled. They only have two power play goals in their last 30 opportunities and have allowed eight power play goals against in their last 21 penalty kills. That amounts to 6.7% on the PP and 61.9% on the PK, numbers that usually don’t amount to wins. The Oilers will look to exploit that tonight, so don’t be surprised if the Oilers take some liberties against the Sharks, which would send a message that the Oilers are no longer the pushovers that the Sharks have had their way with the last three seasons.
Thursday night marked the return to the lineup of Taylor Hall for the Oilers, and boy did he have a comeback. Hall netted the two Oiler goals and despite the loss, that was the most encouraging part of the game. Hall missed the last seven games with a left shoulder injury. The Oilers will need to respond better after a goal, as Ryan Jones states:
"When we needed to come out and ride the momentum after a goal, it just seemed like they pushed more than we wanted to go," Oilers forward Ryan Jones said. "It's just something that we have to fix in the locker room."
Nikolai Khabibulin has had a week off, but could return tonight. Interestingly enough, Khabibulin wasn’t struggling as he was given the week off for some extra rest. He’s allowed two goals or fewer in four of his last five starts with a 2.19 GAA.
It should be a great game from two teams that are looking to get as many points as possible right now.