The San Jose Sharks will be coming to Rexall Place tonight for the Edmonton Oilers‘ 2013 home opener. In a battle of 1-0-0 teams who are coming out of a lockout and playing a compressed schedule, it is next to impossible to have a feel at this point for how the teams are really doing and where they are likely headed, so this matchup could go either way.
“Conventional wisdom,” for whatever that’s worth at this point, might suggest that with this being the Oilers’ first home game in months, and with them being younger and in better game shape than most of the Sharks’ players, that they should be the favorite to win.
But that is why they play the games.
The Sharks, as usual, boast a wealth of offensive talent: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat. Their defense includes such stalwarts (be they of the offensive or defensive sort) as Dan Boyle, Brad Stuart and even Brent Burns. Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss make for a great 1-2 punch in net. In short, there is still a lot to like about the Sharks in 2013 aside from their fragile mental state, as they have to be practically resigned by now to the fact they are likely to storm their way through the regular season before getting unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs yet again.
The Oilers counter with a group of up-and-coming talent: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner. These guys aren’t slouches, but some of them are still finding their game at the NHL level so it is hard to know what this group is going to bring to the table night in and night out. Vets like Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky (who was key in Edmonton’s season-opening victory over the Vancouver Canucks this past Sunday) will certainly help on the offensive side, while Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry and Ryan Whitney will try to help hold down the fort on the defensive side of things.
While there have been no reports yet, expect to see Niemi in net for the Sharks and Devan Dubnyk starting again for the Oilers. Brent Burns continues to be questionable for the Sharks as he recovers from hernia surgery, and may or may not play tonight.