PREVIEW: Oilers hit San Jose on second half of back-to-back
|TV: Sportsnet Oilers (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 8:38 p.m. MT
AT THE TEAM HOTELSAN JOSE - Following a 2-1 OT win over the Phoenix Coyotes, 90-minute flight to Oakland and 40-mile bus ride to their hotel in San Jose, the Oilers got to bed at about 1:45am last night.
As a result of the unusually late back-to-back itinerary, the club opted out of a morning skate and instead chose to hold a noon(ish)-hour team meeting and media availability at the hotel.
Heading into tonight's contest against the 6-0-0 Sharks, injuries have forced the Oilers to make some lineup changes. After being blindsided by Shane Doan late in Wednesday's game, Shawn Horcoff is out and is listed as day-to-day with a strained neck.
"We wanted to give him a chance to regenerate today," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "We're hoping he'll feel a lot better tomorrow."
As a result, Anton Lander has been recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons. Since the Oilers are currently carrying eight defencemen and need room on the roster, Magnus Paajarvi has been sent down.
Lennart Petrell also blocked a shot late in yesterday's game and looked to be in some serious pain, but should be good to go tonight. If not, the Oilers will be prepared by dressing seven defencemen and 12 forwards in the pre-game warm up.
Devan Dubnyk is expected to get the start in goal, but that, too, will be a game-time announcement.
"He really had an excellent game in Phoenix," Krueger said of Dubnyk's 27-save performance. "It was as tough as we expected. The Coyotes give you nothing and play so strong through the middle, so it's hard to get chances against them. We were pleased with what he had to do. It was a tight 1-0 game and Devan was the anchor we needed for that situation. He stayed calm right through it. His whole aura right now is excellent."
REVENGE ON THE MIND
A little more than a week ago the Sharks rolled into Rexall Place and, spurred by the surprise of a six-goal first period, spoiled the Oilers' home opener with a 6-3 beat down. With an opportunity to get them back in their own building, the Oilers are more motivated than usual to take it to their opponent.
"We really gave them that first period," Krueger said. "Our penalty killing breakdowns were out of line with how we want to play." (The Oilers allowed three power-play goals that night.)
Once the opening period had come to a close, the Oilers outshot and outscored the Sharks in the remaining 40 minutes.
"It's not an anger towards what San Jose did, it's an anger towards how we played," Krueger said. "It's about correcting that and taking those last two periods with us to how we need to play. It's an extreme motivation to play up to the top team in the Western Conference."
There's a reason San Jose is as dominant as they are. Patrick Marleau currently leads the League in goals (nine) and points (14, tied with teammate Joe Thornton). Along with Joe Pavelski, that line combined to record nine points in the first period against the Oilers on opening night.
"Yeah, they're playing really well," shrugged Ryan Smyth, who's yet to cash this season but has one assist. "We need to be disciplined, get pucks in deep and minimize their offence as best we can. It's a very tough task (to contain them) and we'll have our hands full. We need to play smart and get the puck in our hands.
"We put (opening night) behind us. It was one bad period and in the second and third, we played our game. We're looking forward to a good challenge tonight."
"We look at every game as an opportunity to get points," Krueger added. "We were able to win the last two periods against them in Edmonton after being down 6-1, so we have some courage we can take out of that. Every opponent in the Western Conference is strong, so I don't see anybody here that's going to give us anything but a challenge."
Since Jan. 22's loss, the Oilers have rebounded well, currently sit with a 4-2-0 record and are right in the mix with the powerhouse Minnesota Wild for the Northwest Division lead.
Considering the Oilers have eight back-to-back sets this season (seven coming on the road), success in them will be vital to the club's chances of securing a post-season berth.
"Most guys don't mind them," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who got to experience plenty of them with the Barons during the 119-day lockout. "Once you get playing, you get into a roll of things and the season's going to be like that when we're playing every second night. You don't have too much time to get too high or too low."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
TV: SNET-EDM, CSN-CA
Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the teams. San Jose scored six first-period tallies in a 6-3 win at Edmonton on Jan. 22.
Big story: With Chicago losing in a shootout at Minnesota on Wednesday night, the Sharks are now the only undefeated team remaining in the NHL. They'll look to make it seven in a row against the high-flying Oilers.
Oilers: Nail Yakupov's exciting start to his NHL career continued Wednesday night, as he beat Chad Johnson via the power play at 3:52 of overtime to lift Edmonton to a 3-2 victory at Phoenix. It was Yakupov's team-leading fourth goal of the season and his first game-winner.
"It's another big goal for Nail. He seems to have a knack for scoring big goals," Oilers forward Sam Gagner said. "He finds a way all the time. It's impressive."
Sharks: San Jose continued its winning ways Tuesday night, when it skated away with a 3-2 shootout victory against the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion. The Sharks erased a 2-1 deficit with just 2:45 remaining in regulation on Logan Couture's fourth goal of the season.
"We got to be excited that we put points in the bank and we were able to come back, but we have to tell it like it was," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "They were the better team. Didn't feel real good tonight with the flow of the game, with the management of players. Opportunities to execute, but we didn't do it. It was a frustrating night, but at least we found a way to win."
Who's hot: Oilers winger Taylor Hall has a goal and seven assists in six games, while Sam Gagner is 2-5-7 and Jordan Eberle is 3-3-6. … Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are tied for the League lead with 14 points through the first six contests, while Joe Pavelski is 3-8-11 and Couture is 4-5-9.
Injury report: Edmonton has numerous players on IR, including Ben Eager (concussion), Ryan Jones (eye), Theo Peckham (hip and Andy Sutton (knee). … Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (lower body) is skating and could be close to making his season debut. Forward Jason Demers is out with a wrist injury.
-- Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor