NHL Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks
The Edmonton Oilers (4-2-0, 2nd in the Northwest Division) square off against the San Jose Sharks (6-0-0, 1st in the Pacific Division) tonight at the Shark Tank in a rematch of last week’s game, which the Sharks won 6-3 in Edmonton. Will the results be much different tonight?
Special teams will play a huge factor in this game. In their first tilt, the Sharks scored three power play goals in five chances, while the Oilers scored twice in their five chances. Keep in mind that the Sharks and Oilers are first and second in the league, respectively on the power play, with both teams connecting on well over 30% of their power plays. Edmonton currently ranks 11th in the NHL on the penalty kill (82.8%) with San Jose right behind them in 12th place (81.5%), so while they are both nearly unstoppable on the power play, neither team is nearly so dominant on the penalty kill. With these two squads on the ice, things have the potential to once again get real ugly, real quick, be it for one of the teams or both.
Patrick Marleau leads all scorers with nine goals and 14 points, while Taylor Hall leads the Oilers in points with eight (one goal, seven assists). Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture help round out San Jose’s balanced scoring attack and that doesn’t even take into account players like defenseman Dan Boyle, who may or may not be available to play tonight after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. Hall is, of course, joined by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov on the offensive end of things, but will they have enough firepower to keep up with San Jose in a tough road match tonight?
A big question mark for tonight’s game lies in who will start for Edmonton. Devan Dubnyk has started all six games so far and has been quite good, but with the Oilers’ recent decision to put backup netminder Yann Danis on waivers before sending him back to Oklahoma City of the AHL, it would appear that Nikolai Khabibulin is finally healthy and ready to contribute to the Oilers again. Does he get the start in net tonight to give Dubnyk a breather? Or will head coach Ralph Krueger be more interested in giving Dubnyk a chance to redeem himself, especially since he has allowed only one goal in three of the four games he has started since the San Jose debacle? Expect Antti Niemi to start in net for the Sharks.
Will the Sharks continue to be the NHL’s only remaining unbeaten team, or will the Oilers be able to stop them and extend their own winning streak to three games tonight?