Despite picking up two points, Todd McLellan and the Sharks were less than pleased with their effort last night in Vancouver, a game in which they were outshot 31-22 at even-strength. They'll have a golden opportunity to get back to the style of play that fueled their dominant October tonight as they take on a downtrodden, division-worst Oilers team that has been outscored 20-2 over their past five home games. It's been a disappointing season in northern Alberta where many believed this would finally be the year Edmonton's accumulation of young talent would translate into contention for a playoff spot with new head coach Dallas Eakins and new general manager Craig MacTavish at the helm.
It hasn't quite worked out that way as the Oilers find themselves with the worst record in the Western Conference, just one point ahead of Buffalo for last place in the NHL. Edmonton actually has a worse goal differential than the Sabres which is, frankly, an impressive accomplishment. What has to be concerning for MacTavish and the Oilers faithful alike is that the team appears to have actually taken a step backward from what was a fairly dismal campaign in the shortened season. Edmonton is controlling just 43.8% of the unblocked shot attempts in score-close situations at evens this year compared to 44.9% a season ago. Unsurprisingly, MacTavish is considering trading what should be a high first-rounder in 2014 for immediate help. And it's certainly going to take a lot of help, especially on the blueline, to fix what ails the Oilers.
Unlike in their recent outings against similarly weak clubs in Buffalo and Winnipeg, the Sharks need to, well, actually win a winnable game this time. Easy points don't come around often in the NHL and you'd hope the team has learned its lesson after playing rope-a-dope with the Sabres and Jets only to come away with shootout losses. If the Sharks can contain Edmonton's dangerous top line, they should be able to improve to 3-0-1 on the road trip.
|12-2-5, 29 points
||4-14-2, 10 points|
|2nd in Pacific
||7th in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels
Matt Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Marty Havlat
John McCarthy - Andrew Desjardins - James Sheppard
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers
Projected Oilers Lineup
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Nail Yakupov - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Boyd Gordon - David Perron
Jesse Joensuu - Will Acton - Luke Gazdic
Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry
Anton Belov - Philip Larsen
Nick Schultz - Corey Potter