The San Jose Sharks (34-23-9, 2nd Pacific) start a four day, three game tour through western Canada with a visit to the Edmonton Oilers (30-35-4, 6th Pacific) at shiny new Rogers Place at a sprightly 6:30 PDT tonight. While the Oilers have been out of the race realistically since about November, as long as they have Connor McDavid they could ice 15 bags of sand in Milan Lucic jerseys (so 14 more than usual) and still pose a threat.
Tonight has all the markings of a classic trap game: a non-playoff team (the Oilers are 18 points back of the Dallas Stars for the West's second wild card spot) on the second night of a back to back with a second string goaltender. The Oilers may come out hard, however, after a hard fought 1-0 loss to their cross provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, last night. That heart breaker ended a three game win streak for the Oil, who seemed to have just barely found something worth playing for in what must be a hugely disappointing season.
The Sharks just ended their six game home stand on a redemptive note, with a 5-3 statement win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings on Monday. Despite coming out a little flat and allowing the Wings the first goal, San Jose cleaned up their game and overpowered the despondent visitors with a 34-26 shot advantage, and goals from five different players, featuring the first goal in teal for veteran Eric Fehr. The strong offensive night was a breath of fresh air for a team that had not scored more than two goals in any of the previous three contests.
With just over three weeks left in the season, every point counts. Well, it counted before, too, but it feels more valuable now. That timetable makes the Oilers' decision to play Oscar Klefbom tonight particularly strange. Klefbom missed two games with a shoulder injury (that has likely been nagging him all year, considering his precipitous decline in production) and will have surgery in the near future to fix it, ending his season. Why Edmonton doesn't shut down a man they seemingly want quarterbacking their top power play unit for years to come is a mystery, but with this front office's history of competence and wisdom bordering on the divine, I think we give them the benefit of the doubt.
The Sharks need to come out of the gates flying and staple Marc-Edouard Vlasic to McDavid's back if they want the two points out of this one, but if the Sharks can win the first period, they should be able to run over a crestfallen and fragile Oilers squad to hand their former coach another shiny, sturdy nail.
Evander Kane -- Joe Pavelski -- Joonas Donskoi
Tomas Hertl -- Logan Couture -- Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier -- Chris Tierney -- Kevin Labanc
Melker Karlsson -- Eric Fehr -- Marcus Sorensen
Joakim Ryan -- Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon -- Dylan DeMelo
Scratched: Barclay Goodrow, Paul Martin, Jannik Hansen
Injured: Joel Ward (shoulder), Joe Thornton (knee)
Tim Heed was sent down to the AHL yesterday, to the relief of pretty much everybody. Karlsson looks to draw back into the lineup after missing three games (for real this time). Goodrow's scratch over Sorensen is a head scratcher, though.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Connor McDavid -- Pontus Aberg
Milan Lucic -- Leon Draisaitl -- Michael Cammalleri
Jesse Puljujarvi -- Ryan Strome -- Anton Slepyshev
Drake Caggiula -- Jujhar Khaira -- Iiro Pakarinen
Darnell Nurse -- Adam Larsson
Oscar Klefbom -- Kris Russell
Andrej Sekera -- Ethan Bear
Scratched: Yohann Auvitu, Zack Kassian
Injured: Matt Benning (illness)
Where to watch
Broadcast: NBCSCA, SN1, SNW
Stream: NHL.tv / NHL App
Radio: 98.5 KFOX / NHL App / Sharks App