Oilers at Sharks Preview: Sharks prepare for biggest test yet

McDavid, Draisaitl and Neal, oh my!

The San Jose Sharks (7-10-1) think they are starting to turn things around, but they’ll be put to the test tonight against the Pacific Division leading Edmonton Oilers (12-5-2). The Sharks are coming off their most complete win of the season after beating the Nashville Predators 2-1 in the shootout. San Jose won the battle in perhaps the most important category, 5-on-5 play. Now, the Sharks will see what they can do against the greatest active player in the NHL, Connor McDavid.

Trouble is, McDavid isn’t even the highest scoring player on the Oilers. McDavid has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) this season, but Leon Draisaitl leads the team in points with 34, goals with 14 and assists with 20. Beyond those guys, there’s more to worry about. James Neal is in the middle of a renaissance year. He has already notched 12 goals in his first season with the Oilers. Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each have 13 points in 19 games this season.

The Oilers are coming off a 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. McDavid scored a hat trick and registered his 400th career point and he’s not even 23 years old yet. Draisaitl notched four assists in that game.

Mikko Koskinen will likely be in net for the Oilers. He’s started the last two games for Edmonton and stopped 60 of the 62 shots he faced in those two games. Edmonton looks like it’s riding the hot hand and I’d guess that Koskinen is in net tonight.

Who’s number will DeBoer call?

If Monday’s practice is anything to go off of, rookie defenseman Mario Ferraro will miss his second game of the season tonight. On Saturday night, Tim Heed slotted in as the team’s sixth defenseman and played 17 shifts for a total of 13:25 total on ice time. But going off of history, Head Coach Pete DeBoer prefers to go with pretty much anyone but Heed.

According to Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News, DeBoer considers Dalton Prout as a possible option for tonight. If Prout is anywhere near ready, I imagine it will be him and Brenden Dillon as the Sharks’ third defensive pairing.

Edmonton’s power play vs. San Jose’s penalty kill

The Oilers have the second-best power play in the league, operating at a 29.1 percent success rate. With the likes of McDavid, Draisaitl, Neal, Oscar Klefbom and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the first unit, it makes sense. The Sharks have the best penalty kill in the league, stopping 91.2 percent of the power plays they have faced.

Tonight’s game could well be decided by power play versus penalty kill.

The last time the Sharks faced one of the best power plays int he league, it did not go well for team teal. The Sharks let the Boston Bruins — who still have the best power play in the league — score two power play goals. The loss was in the midst of the Sharks’ five-game losing streak.

Now the Sharks are riding a three-game winning streak. It will be interesting to see which comes out on top tonight, the league’s best penalty kill or the league’s second best power play.

Who scores first?

With all that fire power, the Oilers have the ability to put the Sharks on the ropes fairly quickly. That’s why it’s imperative that the Sharks score first in this game. When the Sharks score first, the defense settles down and Martin Jones seems to get out of his head and just play.

Who scores first, the Sharks or the Oilers is going to be very important tonight.

Bold Prediction: I hate doing these because I usually jinx it, but the Sharks score a pair of power play goals and a short-handed goal for good measure. They beat the Oilers in a barn burner 6-5. Erik Karlsson has four points and Sharks fans suddenly feel like they have something to cheer for again.

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