Sharks (45-28-7, 25-10-4 home) vs. Edmonton Oilers (44-26-9, 20-14-5 away), 7:30 p.m., SAP Center, NBCSCA, 98.5 KFOX
The Sharks are 52-41-12-9 all time against Edmonton and have a 2-2 record against the Oilers this season. Both teams have 97 points and are tied for second place in the Pacific Division, four points back of first place Anaheim. The Sharks won the first two meetings with the Oilers this season but have lost the last two, including a 3-2 defeat in Edmonton on March 30. In that game, Patrick Maroon had two goals, including the winner, Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist and Cam Talbot had 38 saves for Edmonton. For the Sharks, Jannik Hansen and Joe Pavelski both scored and Martin Jones had 19 saves. Edmonton is 8-2 in its last 10 games and the Sharks are 3-7.
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Sharks notes: Logan Couture and Joe Thornton both skated again Thursday morning but will not play. There remains no indication on when they will suit up, as coach Pete DeBoer reiterated that both remain day-to-day. Jones will get his seventh straight start Thursday, and his fifth straight start against the Oilers this season. Jones has a .885 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average vs. Edmonton in 2016-17. Micheal Haley will draw back into the lineup after he was scratched for Tuesday’s game vs. Vancouver. Timo Meier, recalled earlier Thursday, will be scratched, it appears.
Here are three keys for the Sharks on Thursday as they look to move back into sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division.
1) Complete effort: The Sharks simply can’t afford to let the energy level slip the same way it did against Vancouver on Tuesday, when they dominated the first eight-to-10 minutes only to see the Canucks find their legs and make a game of it. Any momentum the Sharks are able to gain in the early going needs to followed up with more pressure. “The last 40 minutes of that game, we kind of just sat back and let them dictate the game,” Jannik Hansen said of Tuesday. “We can’t do that tonight or it’s going to be a different result.”
2) Defensive awareness: Of course the Sharks need to know where Connor McDavid is at all times when he’s on the on the ice, but the best way to contain the explosive Oilers is to make them play in their own zone. The Sharks did a pretty good job of that in the March 30 meeting between the two teams in Edmonton, but a couple of mistakes wound up in the back of their net. “We just really have to bear down to what (DeBoer) has up on the board for us and stick to the details of the game,” Kevin Labanc said. “Just watch for certain players like McDavid, just be aware when he’s on the ice. At the same time, outwork their defensemen and create offense for ourselves.”
3) Match the emotion: The Sharks know the Oilers are going to come with a ton of emotion Thursday, as they look to clinch home ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time in what seems like forever. Both teams are going to want to set a certain tone, but the Sharks need to play with the same kind of urgency and enthusiasm as Edmonton is bound to bring. Give the Oilers something to think about if a first round matchup happens to occur. The Sharks are the underdogs tonight. Use that to your advantage, stay together and play for one another. “Confidence is a funny thing,” Hansen said. “When you have it, things tend to bounce your way. When it’s not there, goals are a lot harder to come by.”