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AT THE MORNING SKATE
Follow an impressive effort but disappointing result vs. Minnesota, the Oilers were back on the ice to fine-tune their skills and strategies heading into tonight's game vs. San Jose.
Edmonton is expected to keep the lines consistent, with one notable exception: on the blue line, Jason Strudwick moves in to replace Theo Peckham. Tonight's game will be Strudwick's first of the season.
"It's a great sport and I love to play, otherwise I would be doing something else," the veteran defenceman said. "The Sharks are a good squad, so obviously we'll have to be jumping. I'm going to play with Jim (Vandermeer) and we know each other pretty well. We played together before, so it's kind of a nice fit for my first game."
HALL FOR ONE
Although the Oilers came out on the losing end of Thursday's game vs. the Wild, the club's youngest player, Taylor Hall, greatly contributed to the team's dynamic play.
The first-overall pick, who is still looking for his first NHL goal, credited chemistry with linemates Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule as well as quality offensive opportunities for his stand-out performance.
"We were really clicking," he said. "I think we just kind of dedicated ourselves to working hard and battling for the puck and just having a high compete level. We did that, and throughout the game we had a lot of time in the offensive zone and we didn't spend a whole lot of time in our own end, that's always good for a line.
"Hopefully we can keep that going tonight and also chip in for a win."
Associate Coach Ralph Krueger said Hall is a work in progress.
"We know it's coming piece by piece," the coach said. "He's taking care of a lot of things at the same time, not only off-ice and his defensive game, so we have to respect that he's putting his pro package together. But that was a great step in the right direction."
Hall and all his teammates will need to come together to pull off a win tonight. The Sharks are a talented group, but Oilers coaches and players are prepared for the attack.
"The keys are definitely going to be that we continue with the pressure that we exerted in the last two periods of the Minnesota game," Krueger explained. "We want to be in their face, we want to get our forecheck alive and go in for that, we need to be smart in the neutral zone with the puck, we want to continue to improve defensively. I thought we didn't give up a lot in the last 55 minutes of the game, and we've got to keep up that stance."
"We're excited to go at them," he added. "It's a big challenge for us, we'll get to know our strengths tonight."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
SHARKS (2-2-1) at OILERS (2-3-0)
TV: CBC (HD), CSN-CA (HD)
Season series -- This is the first of four meetings between the two clubs. The Sharks won the first three games of last season: 5-4 in a shootout on Nov. 27, a game in which Patrick Marleau notched a hat trick; 4-1 on Jan. 2; and 4-2 on Jan. 16. The Oilers won their last encounter, a 5-1 victory on March 21. Of the five Edmonton goal scorers on that night, only Dustin Penner and Shawn Horcoff remain with the team.
Big story -- The number of the day on Saturday is 3 -- the Sharks had lost three straight before their victory over the Avalanche on Thursday and have never won their first three road games of a season, a feat they could accomplish against the Oilers. Edmonton meanwhile, has lost its last three games, after having won its first two of the season.
Sharks -- Joe Pavelski carried on where he left off during the Sharks' playoff series with the Avs last season by scoring 2 power-play goals in their 4-2 win. The center had tallied five goals in that series. Marleau and Dany Heatley assisted on both of Pavelski's goals, while Scott Nichol scored in the first and Logan Couture had an empty-netter. Antero Niittymaki made 29 saves in his second start of the season.
"I don't know what it is," Pavelski said of his success against Colorado. "I just have to keep playing here, I guess. It's just one of those things. It must be the lighting. Who knows, but the team played good tonight. We knew there were going to be a few mistakes, but we worked hard and kept it simple."
"We've been saying that if we're mentally engaged, we win hockey games," captain Joe Thornton said. "I think we were tonight. Right from the first faceoff, we executed great."
Oilers -- The Wild had a 3-1 lead over the Oilers at the end of the first period and while Edmonton outshot Minnesota 15-8 in the second period and had 10 power-play opportunities in the game, it failed to make a full comeback. Horcoff scored a power-play goal in the third period to make it a one-goal game, but the Wild scored their fourth goal late in the period into an empty net. Ales Hemsky was the first-period goal scorer.
"You can't give up three goals in the first period when you're at home," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "Other than that, we really kind of dominated for stretches and we've got to continue the way we played for most of the second and third into [Saturday] night. So we didn't play poorly, but you can't come out like that."
Who's hot -- Marleau has points in each of his last four games, with 2 assists on Thursday. For Edmonton, Whitney was the only Oiler to have a multi-point game on Thursday with 2 assists. He leads his team with 5 points.
Injury report -- Sharks defenseman Derek Joslin is on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury. … Oilers left wing Jean-Francois Jacques is out following back surgery.
Stat pack -- Edmonton is 29th in the League in the power kill, while San Jose's power-play is the third best in the NHL. The Sharks have scored 8 of their 13 goals this season with the extra man.
Puck Drop -- Despite having not yet scored his first NHL goal, Taylor Hall's efforts on Thursday earned him second star and proved that he is capable of sticking in the League.
"It was reassuring, no question, because he has been in question. Although not internally at all. We believe in this kid. He hasn't had a bad game yet. He certainly has had a best game now," Oilers coach Tom Renney said.
"He has proven to me from the get-go that he belongs in the National Hockey League. He just made another case for himself."
-- Magalie Lafrenière - NHL.com Staff Writer