NHL Gameday: Sharks, Oilers both coming in hot

NHL Gameday: Sharks, Oilers both coming in hot

Programming note – Sharks-Oilers coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 31-16-2, 64 points, 1st Pacific Division
Oilers: 27-15-8, 62 points, 3rd Pacific Division


***Tomas Hertl will return to the Sharks lineup for the first time since injuring his right knee on Nov. 17 in St. Louis. More on that here.

***The Sharks and Oilers are two of the hottest teams in hockey headed into their third of five head-to-head matchups tonight. San Jose has won six straight after sweeping a brief two-game road trip, while Edmonton is 6-0-1 in its last seven including a 4-0 win in Anaheim on Wednesday.

San Jose has won both games against the Oilers this season, Dec. 23 at home, 3-2 in overtime, and 5-3 in Edmonton on Jan. 10.

“They’re a dangerous, dangerous team,” Pete DeBoer said. “I think we were fortunate to win both those games. I think there were stretches in both those games it could have gone either way.”

The Sharks have a two-point lead on the Edmonton in the Pacific Division, with two games in hand. This is the final game before the All-Star break.

***San Jose will be concluding perhaps its toughest stretch of the regular season, with seven games in 11 days and eight games in 13 days. Remarkably, they’ve still managed to capture 12 out of a possible 12 points with their winning streak.

“It’s fun to put that many points in the bank in a short period of time,” Joe Pavelski said.

“We said awhile back we have seven games coming into the last 11 days, wanted to make a little push. I don’t think any of us really saw six straight wins coming, but there were some good character wins in there.”


Sharks: Mikkel Boedker. The winger recorded a hat trick in the last Sharks-Oilers meeting, helping the Sharks to a win in their first-ever game at Rogers Place earlier this month. Although he hasn’t been perfect since then – he was benched for the third period again in a game on Jan. 19 – Boedker has three assists in his last two games.

Oilers: Zack Kassian. The agitating forward, who was a bit of a troublemaker in the first Sharks-Oilers in December, brings a five-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 3a). The 26-year-old, who leads the Oilers with 72 penalty minutes, scored one of Edmonton’s four goals in Anaheim on Wednesday.


Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Ryan Carpenter

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Benoit Pouliot – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Milan Lucic – Drake Caggiula – Anton Slepyshev
Matt Hendricks – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian

Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
Brandon Davidson – Matt Benning

Cam Talbot
Laurent Brossoit


Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) is day-to-day. Micheal Haley (lower body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Oilers: Darnell Nurse (ankle surgery), Iiro Pakarinen (knee), Juhjar Khaira (wrist) and Tyler Pitlick (torn ACL) are out.


“It will for sure [be] a big game. It’s a four-point game. … I want to for sure help. I want to play good, but we need to be ready for their speed.” – Tomas Hertl

How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.  

The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year


The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year

Jannik Hansen's game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday marked the first time he scored in 355 days. 

Hansen last scored on Mar. 30, 2017 against the Edmonton Oilers, his second goal with the Sharks following an in-season trade. His scoring drought, in all, lasted 44 regular season games, 50 if you include the postseason. 

How exactly does a goal-scoring drought last nearly a year? The right (wrong?) circumstances all need to come together, and that was certainly the case for Hansen for much of the last year.

For one, the Danish forward was in and out of the lineup. San Jose played 83 regular season and postseason games between Hansen's second and third goals, and he did not play in 33 of those games. Plenty of players have had rough 50-game stretches, and that's often without not playing for weeks at a time, as Hansen has done a couple of times this season. 

When Hansen did draw into the lineup this year, however, he wasn't generating offense at the same rate he had in the past. This season, Hansen's five-on-five shot rate (6.19 shots per 60 minutes), shot attempt rate (10.53 individual corsi per 60), and unblocked shot attempt rate (8.95 individual fenwick per 60) were all down from his career averages, according to Corsica Hockey. 

That decline is natural, considering Hansen turned 32 just six days ago. Those rates were not down enough, however, to expect him to fail to score in his first 39 appearances this season. Naturally, a long run of bad luck played a big role in Hansen's dry spell.

Hansen went 0-for-66 in shots over the 50 consecutive regular season and playoff games in which he did not score. He's a career 11-percent shooter, and had he shot at his career average, he would have scored seven goals during that time. That feels about right for a bottom-six forward. 

In many ways, all of these factors fed into one another. Hansen wasn't generating shots or scoring, then was scratched, then couldn't find the back of the net when he returned and was scratched again. All the while, fellow fourth-liners Marcus Sorensen (26.7 percent shooting percentage this season), Joel Ward (14.3 percent) and Barclay Goodrow (13.2 percent) were converting on their chances, forcing Peter DeBoer's hand. 

His possession play has been solid all season (50.74 percent corsi-for, per Natural Stat Trick), but the offense hasn't followed. When it does, as was the case Tuesday night, he can be an effective fourth-line forward, and the goal on Tuesday bought him more time to prove it.