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Sharks at Oilers Preview: Connor McWho?

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The NHL’s sweetheart hasn’t scored since Sunday. The Oilers just broke a six-game losing streak. Time for the Sharks to take a bite.

Jan 8, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Tobias Rieder (22) skates with the puck as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) closes in during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers (24-25-5) have had a rollercoaster of a season. With the most recent firing of their general manager, the state of this Oilers team is ever changing. They just broke a six-game losing streak this week. The San Jose Sharks (32-16-7), however, have won four straight. The Oilers are hungry for wins, so what transpires tonight will be interesting between these two division rivals.

These two teams met both at the end of the December and in the beginning of January. The Sharks came up big both times, scoring seven goals in each game. The 7-2 victory last month saw a pair of Sharks goals from Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi, as well as one goal apiece from Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen and Brent Burns. Aaron Dell manned the net, making 20 saves. Alex Chiasson and Milan Lucic found the net for Edmonton, while both goalies found time in the net. Cam Talbot made 13 saves on 17 shots and Mikko Koskinen made 16 saves on 19 shots.

Though they’ve had a pretty poor season, the Oilers are coming off of a big win. The 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild came off a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Against the Wild, Zack Kassian, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse and Ty Rattie scored, while Cam Talbot made 35 saves on 36 shots. The Oilers got 22 shots on Devan Dubnyk. Connor McDavid assisted on two of the goals. The Sharks are coming off a big win themselves, scoring five goals against the Calgary Flames. Will this Oilers team be able to keep up with a high scoring Sharks team?

Connor McDavid

Though he hasn’t scored in a few games, Connor McDavid is good at hockey, if you can believe that. He leads the Oilers in points with 80. Leon Draisaitl is the closest behind him with 66 points. Connor McDavid is an insanely good hockey player on an incredibly mediocre hockey team. He has 31 goals and 49 assists. He has the second most points in all of the National Hockey League, just one point below Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov. Eight of his goals came on the power play and he is probably not going to be the reason the Oilers see a power play, taking only 16 penalty minutes this season. He is a force to be reckoned with. The Sharks’ defense has to be ready to stand strong against one of the best players in the league.

Special teams?

The Oilers aren’t the best when it comes to special teams. The Sharks have a strong power play, killing 82.7 percent of penalties, while the Oilers have killed 75.1 percent of power plays. They’ve allowed 42 power play goals, the third most in the NHL. Zack Kassian leads the Oilers in penalty minutes, taking 80 this season. Meanwhile, Evander Kane has 105 penalty minutes. It’s hard to look at Kassian and think 80 minutes is high when Kane has over 100.

The Oilers’ special teams are weak and they are easily scored on when on the kill, but Evander Kane’s excessive penalty taking could cause the Sharks trouble here. The Sharks will need to be mindful when it comes to taking penalties while making the most of power play opportunities.

Erik Karlsson, please?

Erik Karlsson missed another game this week, sitting out against the Calgary Flames. If he misses this game, this will be his seventh-straight on the sidelines. Peter DeBoer is confident Karlsson will return on the road trip, and the road trip is coming to a close with just Vancouver on the schedule after tonight. Will tonight be the night he takes the ice in teal again? Still listed as day-to-day, the Sharks are longing to have Karlsson back, especially against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Karlsson may only have three goals this season, but he has 40 assists and makes a noticeable impact on the blue line. Fingers crossed that he comes back tonight. I need to see that free flowing hair on the ice, okay?

Bold prediction: Connor McDavid will go goalless for his third game straight. He won’t even get an assist on the board. The Sharks will shut him down.