PREVIEW: Oilers at Sharks
Oilers continue three-game trip with first match-up of 2014 in San Jose
|TV: Sportsnet West
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 8:38 p.m. MST
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The Edmonton Oilers play their second of three games on their Pacific Division road trip tonight against the San Jose Sharks. It is Edmonton’s first game of the 2014 calendar year.
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The team took an optional skate this morning so it is expected that the lines for tonight’s game will be the same as they were at practice yesterday:
Hall - RNH - Perron
Yakupov - Gagner - Eberle
Smyth - Gordon - Hemsky
Gazdic - Lander - Joensuu
The defence will be the same as well:
Ference - J.Schultz
N.Schultz - Petry
Belov - Marincin
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal.
"They're one of the best teams in the league. They're big, strong and shoot the puck a lot," Dubnyk began. "I know they're going to be going to the net and firing lots of pucks on the net so it's going to be my job to make sure I'm staying on top of my crease and fighting to see pucks and fighting to see rebounds."
Nail Yakupov returns to the lineup tonight after spending the last game in the press box. The previous handful of games, Yakupov was on the fourth line but tonight he gets on line two and will also get power play time.
“We want to see responsibility first, as always,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins when asked what he expected of the Yakupov, Gagner, Eberle line. “We need our guys to understand the importance of leaving the other guys off the scoresheet. But we also need offence from these guys.”
Jordan Eberle agreed with his coach.
“Some keys tonight: We need to stay out of the box. They have a great power play. When you get on the road you have to create some momentum, move your feet and draw some penalties,” Eberle remarked.
PLAYING WITH ANYONE
The Oilers have had a tough record against their divisional opponents this season. It’s a trend that Taylor Hall hopes ends tonight.
“Our record against the better teams in the west aren't great but it's not like we're blown out a lot. We're right there,” said Hall. “We're a team that can beat any team in the league. We've shown that.”
Hall’s line did a great job on Tuesday keeping the puck deep in the Coyotes end and the winger said that he expects more of the same tonight for his unit.
“They're a great team. Everyone knows their players and we have to keep them in check. We need to try and get it in their end and make them play defence.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (13-24-5) at SHARKS (25-9-6)
TV: SNET-W, CSN-CA
Last 10: Edmonton 2-6-2; San Jose 6-3-1
Big story: Players to watch Thursday include Sharks forward Joe Pavelski and Oilers forward Nail Yakupov. The former was named to the U.S. Olympic team Wednesday, while the latter returns to the lineup in what could be an enhanced role.
Oilers: Yakupov has been an enigma in his sophomore season in Edmonton. Failing to build off a dynamite rookie year, he has six goals and 14 points and is minus-25 in 39 games, found himself a healthy scratch on numerous occasions, including a 4-3 overtime loss Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes, and played fewer than 10 minutes in each of his past four games.
Coach Dallas Eakins had him practicing on the second line Wednesday with Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner, however, and indicated the Oilers will continue to work to bring out the best in the talented 20-year-old.
"We want him to play the system and the way we're trying to get our whole group to play. And that's his challenge," Eakins said. "He fully understands it. And he fully understands that there's a little bit of heat on him to play and play well. He's with two good players, two experienced players. He's going to get some looks on one of our power plays where we've put him right back to where he's been before."
Sharks: Pavelski, tied for second on San Jose in scoring with 37 points, will represent his country for the second time at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He had three assists in six games in the 2010 Vancouver Games, when the U.S. came within a goal of winning the gold medal.
Since then, Pavelski has continued to blossom as a player. He recorded his first 30-goal season in 2011-12, and he's on pace to do it again with 16 goals in 40 games going into Thursday. That includes three goals and three assists during an active five-game point streak.
"You know teams won't take you lightly this time around," Pavelski told San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak upon his Olympic selection. "It is one of those times where you expect to win now."
Who's hot: Oilers left wing Taylor Hall has two goals and six assists his past four games, and David Perron has three goals and two assists over the same span. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has goals in consecutive games. … Bracken Kearns, who scored his first NHL goal Sunday at the age of 32, scored in a second consecutive game Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. Logan Couture also scored in the 6-3 loss and has goals in two straight.
Injury report: Edmonton forwards Mark Arcobello (ribs) and Ryan Jones (head) are ready to return, but they won't play Thursday. Defensemen Corey Potter (groin) and Philip Larsen (illness) are also out. … San Jose forward Tommy Wingels (upper body) is day-to-day. Forwards Raffi Torres (knee), Adam Burish (lower body), Tomas Hertl (knee) and Marty Havlat (lower body) are on injured reserve.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com