Keeping Tabs - The two Western Conference teams that San Jose has yet to play
Normally in Keeping Tabs, Fear the Fin emphasizes the happenings of the rest of the Pacific Division - Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Today the analysis of our closest enemies will take a backseat to that of the only two Western Conference teams the San Jose Sharks have yet to face - the Edmonton Oilers (who visit the Shark Tank tonight) and the Vancouver Canucks (who come to town on December 23).
The Oilers have won their last two games, beating Dallas at home and Los Angeles last night on the road. Counting their win against St. Louis, they have 3 wins in 4 games (the lone loss to Dallas on Nov. 30 was avenged three nights ago).
Last night's game featured 3 straight Oilers goals in the first period, only to be followed by 4 straight Kings goals in the second. The Oilers tied the game in the third, sending it to overtime, and then the "skills competition." Mathieu Garon was in net (as he was for the whole game), coming in with a 10-0 record in shootouts...
If Garon is in net tonight, this is something San Jose should be wary of should the game go past 60 minutes.
True to form, Garon stopped two of the three Kings he faced, while Los Angeles' Jason LaBarbera gave up two goals, the last of which ended the game. [Note - look up the shootout on YouTube, as LaBarbera was angered enough to slam his stick against the posts, and again as he left the ice].
The Sharks should also be mindful of the recent creation of an Oilers' first line, featuring Dustin Brown-Shawn Horcoff-Ales Hemsky. This line has TWENTY-SEVEN POINTS IN NINE GAMES (nine goals, 18 assists). Ales Hemsky alone has 27 points thus far in the season - Horcoff has 18, and Penner has 11 (as well as a plus-10 rating, the best on the team).
The win last night over Los Angeles also propelled the Oilers up in the standings, from 13th to 10th. A win over San Jose tonight, coupled with a Nashville and Phoenix loss would put the Oilers tied for 8th. Their win last night, not surprisingly, bumped them from last in the Northwest Division to 4th, just ahead of Colorado.
Here are the recent lines that Edmonton has used:
Rob Schremp-Andrew Cogliano-Marc Pouliot
Ethan Moreau-Kyle Brodziak-Erik Cole
Liam Reddox-Jason Strudwick-Zack Stortini (NOTE - Strudwick is a defenseman, normally)
Here are the Oilers who will be out tonight due to injury:
- Sam Gagner (concussion on Dec. 3, day-to-day)
- Robert Nilsson (upper body on Nov. 30, out until mid-month)
- Fernando Pisani (ankle on Nov. 17, out until mid-Jan.)
- Steve MacIntyre (orbital bone on Nov. 6, out until mid-month)/
Returning to the Oilers is defenseman Ladislav Smid, who (like Strudwick) has been placed with the forwards earlier this season. He missed 7 games due to a concussion, caused by none other than former Oiler Raffi Torres, on November 5.
First-round draft pick (6th overall, 2005) Gilbert Brule will make his Edmonton debut tonight against San Jose.
Goaltending for Edmonton has been in a state of flux - Craig MacTavish (the coach) has alternated between three goaltenders, namely Garon, Sharks-nemesis Dwayne Roloson, and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (psst, can we just call you "Jeff?").
If you'll recall the month of March, 2008 (such a fine month in San Jose), the one blemish on our home record featured a certain Roloson in net, during the shootout. I for one would not be surprised to see Roloson play tonight, especially due to the back-to-back scheduling for Edmonton, but also for that reason (to say nothing of the 2006 Semifinals).
Vancouver's win last night over Minnesota took the Canucks to the #1 spot in the Northwest Division, or 3rd overall in the Western Conference. However, that win broke a 4-game losing streak. Impressively, despite losing 5-6 to Detroit in that 4-game span, the last win prior to the victory over Minnesota was against Detroit, 3-2 in overtime on November 24.
Actually, the Canucks have followed a 4-game winning streak with the aforementioned 4-game losing streak. If symmetry continues to December 23, when the Canucks visit the HP Pavilion, then the result should be an overtime victory for San Jose (go ahead, study their calendar).
Wishful thinking aside, let's get down to some facts. Here are the lines that have been used recently:
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Pavol Demitra (hey, what happened to former Shark Steve Bernier?)
Alex Burrows-Ryan Kesler-Steve Bernier (oh, there he is...)
Taylor Pyatt-Mason Raymond-Kyle Wellwood
Darcy Hordichuk-Jason Jaffray-Jannik Hansen
If you'll recall, goaltender extraordinaire Roberto Luongo has been out since November 22, due to a groin strain. In his place are Curtis Sanford and Cory Schneider (who beat the Sharks during the preseason). Luongo should be back by December 23 - lucky us.
Leading the team in scoring - all three members of the #1 line. The Sedin twins have 26 points each, while Demitra has 14 points in 17 games.
Worth noting - only 3 Canucks have a minus-rating, though none is worse than minus-2. One of these illustrious types happens to be former Sharks d-man Rob Davison.
ALSO worth noting is that the Vancouver Canucks will reach a decision on whether to acquire Mats Sundin within the next 10 days. However, Sundin would have to take less than the $10 million originally offered by GM Mike Gillis, as well as rewrite that 2-year, $20 million offer... if Gillis wants to keep the Sedin twins (um, duh).
Injury notes (besides Luongo) - centers Ryan Johnson and Rick Rypien will be out a few weeks for a broken foot / finger, and hernia surgery (respectively). Rypien should be good to go by December 23.
Also note that Hordichuk is walking (er, skating) wounded, as he has a hairline fracture in his foot. He was on the ice last night, however, logging 8:35 in ice time.