MORNING SKATE REPORT
Tonight the Edmonton Oilers begin their three-game road trip in rainy San Jose. The Sharks handled the Oilers 5-2 in their most recent matchup in Edmonton on March 25, but the Oilers are looking ahead to tonight’s matchup with cautious optimism.
In the win on March 25, the Sharks scored three power play goals. The penalty kill was a focus of the Oilers in their pre-game interviews.
“We played a pretty good game other than our penalty kill struggled that night,” Matt Hendricks said. “I think we need to just play our game and we should be able to come out of here with two points.”
This road trip takes the Oilers to not just San Jose but also to Anaheim (2nd in the Western Conference) and Phoenix (8th in west). It will be a tough task for the Oilers who have watched fast starts and early leads slip away from them in recent games.
“We’ve got to be desperate but we’ve got to find a way to stay in the games and eliminate that big, head-shaking mistake,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “It seems like we get into the games and everything’s fine and then there’s that hiccup along the way that sends us spiralling sometimes. We want to just get into the flow of it, the rhythm, there’s a real beat to the game and if we can get that going, eliminate the big mistake, then we should be fine.”
SHARK INFESTED WATERS
The Oilers are heading into unfriendly territory tonight at the SAP Center. The Sharks have a 26-6-5 record at home this season and if Edmonton expects to skate away with the victory, it will take a complete game which starts with discipline.
“I think our biggest thing is our discipline in this rink,” Hendricks said. “Their fans get into it, it’s a hostile environment against a very good hockey team but if we play our system, stay disciplined and stay out of the penalty box, I think we’re going to have a good chance.”
“They’re definitely a good home team,” Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “They’re really good on the road too so we’ve got to come in with the attitude that we’re not going to let up at all. We know that they’re going to come at us hard and we’ve got to be really good at battling back, not let them get too much momentum and get the crowd out of it a bit.”
ACTON BACK IN ACTION
Acton has not played an NHL game since December 3, against Phoenix. He was excited to get the call, reunite with old teammates and get to know the new ones.
“Obviously, very excited,” Acton said. “It’s been a couple of months and, even though I’ve been here before, every time you get that call to come to the NHL it’s obviously a very exciting moment and I’m looking forward to tonight.”
Acton has 22 points (12-10-22) in 44 games with OKC this season. He had three points (2-1-3) in 23 games with the Oilers earlier in the season.
LARSEN BACK TO FORWARD
With an injury depleted roster, the Oilers will once again turn to defenceman Philip Larsen to play forward for the team. Larsen, a quick player, was an obvious choice for Head Coach Dallas Eakins when selecting a blueliner for the task.
“Just because he can move, he can skate,” Eakins said. “Tonight, he’s going to get a lot more ice up there than he did last game. I think he’s just the best suited out of the group back there.”
Larsen played centre in his earlier pre-professional hockey career until he was 16.
OILERS (26-40-9) at SHARKS (47-20-9)
TV: SNET-W, SNET-EDM, CSN-CA+
Last 10: Edmonton 4-5-1; San Jose 5-3-2
Season series: This is the fifth and final game between the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks. San Jose has won three of four, including the only game played at SAP Center, 5-1 on Jan. 2. Sharks forward Joe Pavelski has five goals and seven points to lead all scorers.
Big story: Edmonton hasn't had much of an answer for San Jose this season, except when goalie Ben Scrivens stood on his head Jan. 29 and set an NHL record for saves in a shutout with 59 as the Oilers won 3-0. They've given up an average of 41.5 shots per game against the Sharks, and an average of 31.5 shots over the first two periods.
Oilers: A three-game road trip that begins Tuesday and an ensuing four-game homestand are all that remain in Edmonton's 2013-14 season. After starting the month of March with a modest 5-2-2 run, the Oilers fell back on hard times by losing four of five -- all at Rexall Place -- and getting outscored 24-8. That included a 5-2 loss to the Sharks on March 25 and a 5-0 loss Sunday to the New York Rangers.
"It seems like we're playing defense way too much. We're having to defend. We don't have the puck as much as we want," forward Taylor Hall said in the Edmonton Sun. "With our skill set, we want to have the puck as much as we can to try create opportunities, and right now it seems like we don't have the puck and it's going in the back of our net."
Sharks: This is the start of a three-game homestand for San Jose, which has seen its hopes of winning the Pacific Division and avoiding the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs take a hit thanks to a 2-3-2 stretch over its past seven games.
The Sharks hadn't had consecutive days without a game since March 9-10 and played 10 games in 17 days to conclude March. Coach Todd McLellan cancelled practice Sunday in order to give his players a little rest. They were back on the ice Monday, but forward Raffi Torres isn't skating and will miss a 12th straight game with general soreness.
"He has to be 100 percent for us to use him," McLellan said. "We're not screwing around with 80 percent or anything like that. He has to be 100 percent, without risk of [injury] reoccurring again."
Who's hot: Oilers forward Jordan Eberle had three goals and three assists over a four-game point streak that was snapped in the shutout loss to the Rangers on Sunday. … Pavelski has four goals and two assists during a three-game point streak for the Sharks. Defenseman Dan Boyle has two goals and two assists during a four-game point streak. Forward Brent Burns has one goal and three assists during a three-game point streak.
Injury report: Edmonton is without defenceman Andrew Ference (pectoral tear) and forwards Nail Yakupov (ankle), Jesse Joensuu (ankle) and Ryan Jones (torn PCL). Also, Luke Gazdic (shoulder) … San Jose defenseman Jason Demers (flu-like symptoms) returned to practice Monday. Forwards Tomas Hertl (knee) and Adam Burish (hand) are sidelined in addition to Torres.
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