The Edmonton Oilers (29-23-4) are going into tonights game against the San Jose Sharks (37-8-9) on a 3-game win streak which saw them post wins against Montreal, L.A., and Phoenix just last night. The Oilers are 4-1-1 in their last 6 games, the Sharks however have been on a slide as of late going 1-2-4 in their last 7 games with 3 shootout losses and 1 OT loss. Edmonton has outscored their opponents 12-5, including a 7-2 blowout against Montreal and a shootout win against L.A. where Robert Nilsson scored the game winning shootout goal. A second shootout goal by Sam Gagner sealed the deal.
The Oilers reunited top line of Ales Hemsky (2-4-6), Shawn Horcoff (2-3-5), and Dustin Penner (2-3-5) have been on fire lately posting 16 points in the last 3 games and a combined +7. One other forward to mention is Robert Nilsson. This kid seems to have completely turned his game around. Especially his play when not in posession of the puck. He's battling in every corner and for every loose puck. His work ethic has increased dramatically and I swear I've seen this kid on the breakaway about 7 times in the last 3 games. Theo Peckham is beginning to come into his own as well and looks to be getting more comfortable with each passing game. He squared off with Goertzen of the Coyotes after he bumped into Oilers netminder Dwayne Roloson. It was a heated fight which saw Peckham land the most punches. Roloson looks to get the call between the pipes again tonight as the Oilers have been riding their veteran goaltenders exceptional play of late. Roloson has been very strong during the Oilers 3-game streak posting a .954 Save % and a 1.67 GA.
The Sharks haven't had a problem scoring goals in their last 3 games, scoring 11 goals. The problem lately has been the defense allowing 12 goals in the previous 3 games. Lately it seems that the Sharks are playing flat and the whole teams seems like it needs a little confidence back. Now facing an Oilers offense that has since been on the upswing the Sharks will need to shut them down and let their own potent offense do the rest. The Sharks have been at the top of the west from the beginning and do not intend to give up their position although the Detroit Red Wings are knocking on their door sitting only 1 point behind them.
This game is very big for both teams. The Sharks need to get their confidence back up in a big way and would like to put some more distance between themselves and the Red Wings and a win would be a great help. The Oilers are 1 point behind 5th place occupied by the Dallas Stars. With a win tonight the Oilers can gain 2 points that seem like a far reach against the top team in the west and jump into 5th place in the western conference standings. This will allow the Oilers to begin to put some distance between themselves and the many teams vying for a playoff position. At this point in the season that seems like every single team in the west as only 10 points seperate 5th place from 15th place. So stay tuned to the game as it promises to be an action packed with a playoff feel.
Oilers keys to winning the game:
Roloson needs to be exceptional once again as he is probably going to face around 35 shots. Ales Hemsky needs to be....well Ales Hemsky. The top line needs to keep up their offensive prowess as of late. The Sharks will come out flying so the first ten minutes will be key. If the Oilers can get through the first ten they should be ok.
Sharks keys to winning the game:
The Oilers played last night so come out fast. The Sharks defense can't sit back as they have in the last 3 games. One of the best offense's in the league....USE IT!!! Nabokov will need a solid game as the Oilers are on a roll and will come out firing everything they have.