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Sharks at Oilers Preview: Sharks need to keep the foot on the gas pedal

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There’s a tired Oilers team the Sharks can take advantage of.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks begin a three game trip around Western Canada tonight. First stop, Edmonton, where the Oilers are on the second night of a back-to-back.

A win tonight will allow San Jose to stay ahead of the teams chasing it in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles is currently holding onto the third spot, but is just one point behind after a shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes last night. Meanwhile, Anaheim is three points back, but the Ducks are also on the outside looking in. At this point, falling out of the Pacific also means falling out of the playoff picture altogether, something the Sharks cannot afford to do.

As for the Oilers, mathematically they are still in the playoff race, but realistically, their season ends on April 7. The Oilers are playing for pride at this point and they have plenty of firepower to make a win against any team in the league a possibility. They’re also angry and frustrated after a heavy game in Calgary last night that ended in a 1-0 loss.

The Oilers will definitely be looking to take out some of that frustration on the Sharks, so San Jose will need to come out of the gate skating tonight or they will be run over by the young Oilers.

Can the Vlasic-Braun combo contain Connor McDavid?

One of the keys to containing the Oilers is containing Connor McDavid. The Sharks will rely on Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun to try to keep McDavid off the scoreboard. That’s easier said than done. McDavid is scoring at a torrid pace. Over the last nine games, he has 13 points (six goals, seven assists). That averages out to 1.44 points per game.

While the Oilers are floundering, McDavid is not. He’s just 16 points shy of back-to-back 100 point seasons. You’ll remember that last season 100 points was enough to earn McDavid the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy. McDavid has 84 points and is currently third in this year’s scoring race, trailing leader Nikita Kucherov by seven points.

Can Evander Kane continue to bring value to the top line?

Evander Kane’s first game in a Sharks’s uniform was against the Oilers on February 27. He had two assists in that game and some instant chemistry with Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi on the top line. However, in the last three games Kane has gone cold. He has just one point, an assist on a power play goal, and is a minus-1. While it’s not time to panic yet, it is something to keep an eye on. The Sharks need Kane to provide top line numbers. It’s essential to any possible playoff run.

Can the Sharks keep the power play going?

Just a week ago, we were lamenting the poor production by the Sharks power play. At that point, San Jose was 0 and 28 on the man advantage. With a little bit of tinkering, the power play has looked better. The Sharks have scored on two of their last seven power play opportunities. San Jose will need to keep the power play clicking as they head into the home stretch of the season.

Bold Prediction: This is a high scoring affair with lots of shots and lots of goals. The Sharks win, but the final score is somewhere in the 6-4 range. McDavid gets a couple of points, but it doesn’t happen when Vlasic is on the ice.

I guess about the final result all the time, now it’s your turn. Drop your game predictions below, or tear mine apart. It’s up to you!