Feeling squeeze of playoff race, Oilers prepare for lowly Sharks
In a heated race to the playoffs, the Edmonton Oilers will try to bank some points against lesser competition when they host the San Jose Sharks on Monday.
The Oilers (39-23-8, 86 points) are in third place in the Pacific Division, three points ahead of the fourth-place Seattle Kraken. Edmonton gained some important breathing room over its rivals with a 6-4 win in Seattle on Saturday.
Within the congested Western Conference, the Oilers face a battle on multiple fronts. The Oilers are both trying to hold off the Kraken and other wild-card contenders while also trying to outpace the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings for the top spot in the Pacific.
"This is probably the tightest I've seen it with respect to the entire conference," Edmonton forward Evander Kane said. "Both divisions, where you can literally be in first place in the Western Conference, or you could be in a wild-card spot within a matter of a week ... There are still very important games down the stretch left to be played."
Fortunately for the Oilers, they seem to be peaking at the right time. Edmonton is on a three-game winning streak and is 7-2-0 over its past nine games. The Oilers have been particularly strong on home ice, with only one regulation loss (9-1-4) in their past 14 games in Edmonton.
The last-place Sharks (19-37-14, 52 points) can only hope to play spoiler down the stretch, as San Jose and Edmonton play three times in the regular season's final 12 games.
The Sharks are on a six-game winless streak (0-4-2), and are just 2-11-3 in their past 16 games. In Saturday's 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders, Kevin Labanc opened the scoring with a first-period marker, but New York responded with four unanswered goals.
San Jose has a league-worst .361 (13-16-7) win percentage when scoring first in games this season.
"We've gotten off to good starts and right now when the adversity hits, we have a hard time getting over it," Sharks coach David Quinn said. "I think it's not just because of what's gone on within the framework of the game, but I think it's what's gone on over the course of the season. ... We've got to keep working on our mental toughness and not let a goal or a bad stretch get in the way of the rest of the game."
Evgeny Svechnikov is questionable for Monday's lineup due to an undisclosed injury. Svechnikov made an early exit from the Sharks' 2-1 loss to the Kraken on Thursday and didn't play against the Islanders.
James Reimer could start on Monday, given the Sharks' recent trend of alternating goaltender starts. Kaapo Kahkonen stopped 29 of 33 shots Saturday against the Islanders.
Stuart Skinner has played in 12 of Edmonton's past 13 games, so the Oilers could give the goalie a rest Monday in favor of backup Jack Campbell. However, the Oilers could opt to stick with the hot hand, as Skinner is 7-1-0 with a 2.89 goals-against average in his last eight games.
In the two teams' first meeting of the season, the Oilers rolled to a 7-1 rout in San Jose on Jan. 13.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 19, 2023