NHL: Oilers put playoff prep up against Sharks
Not only do the Edmonton Oilers have a playoff spot clinched, but they head into Thursday’s home clash with the San Jose Sharks with a few other achievements in hand.
Thanks to Tuesday’s convincing 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Oilers (47-27-6, 100 points) hit the 100-point mark and clinched second place in the Pacific Division and home-ice advantage for their pending opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings.
Edmonton will look to build on that when the Sharks (32-36-12, 76 points) come calling.
“We’ve been playing extremely well at home as of late, and the next few games are at home, so we want to keep that going,” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. “You want to be playing well into the playoffs.”
The Oilers have won five of six games, while captain Connor McDavid has taken his game to a new level with 12 points (10 assists) in the past four games. He had a league-leading 122 points, heading into NHL play Wednesday.
Evander Kane, the former Sharks forward, will look to make a statement Thursday. He has scored six goals in a four-game run and netted 10 points in the past half-dozen outings.
Edmonton goaltender Mike Smith has won 10 consecutive starts.
Key for the Oilers was how they rebounded after losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets in their previous outing.
“If you don’t win the game, you have to regroup and replenish so you’re ready for the next contest,” coach Todd Woodcroft said. “I think there’s a real maturity to our team. We have some older players, players with some really good experience that are sharing their experiences.”
The Sharks will conclude their season with a pair of road games after their modest two-game winning streak was snapped by Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in their final home game.
“I know it doesn’t really mean anything, technically, but we have a lot to play for still and a lot of pride in that room,” Sharks forward Matt Nieto said.
San Jose has a 3-8-4 record since March 30, but coach Bob Boughner pointed out that his team has been a close in many of those games. Against Anaheim, it was a 3-2 affair midway through the third period.
“We played pretty well,” Boughner said. “We don’t have anything to show for it and it’s sort of (the) story of our year, maybe.”
“We’ve been in a lot of good games, we’ve been in a lot of hard games. We’ve lost a lot of games by one goal. I think I counted the other day, including overtime and shootouts and games where we had to pull our goalie, I believe it was over 25. Those are a lot of valuable points.”
It appears the Sharks will finish the season without two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson, who has missed the past seven games due to a lower-body injury.
“He’s not skating. So, that doesn’t point to a real positive sign that he’s going to be dressing for the last couple of games,” Boughner said, according to the San Jose Mercury News “He hasn’t been on the ice in a week.”
Karlsson has played fewer than 60 games in four consecutive seasons, while the Sharks have missed the NHL playoffs for three consecutive seasons. Karlsson is finishing his fourth season with the Sharks and his third year of an eight-year, $92 million deal signed in June 2019.
–Field Level Media