Sharks-Oilers could be a budding, nasty rivalry

Sharks-Oilers could be a budding, nasty rivalry

EDMONTON – All of the ingredients are there.

Division rival? Check. Exciting young superstar to draw the ire of opposing fans? Check. Former head coach now behind the bench of the other team? Check. Some bubbling nastiness between the two sides? Check.

The Sharks and Oilers haven’t been in the same hockey stratosphere in quite some time. You probably have to go all the way back to 2006, when Edmonton knocked off the Sharks in the second round of the playoffs and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

But even that didn’t really lead to any ongoing feud between the two clubs, as the Oilers quickly nosedived. Now, they’re back, and unquestionably a team on the rise with Connor McDavid and Todd McLellan leading the way. The Sharks are at the top, defending their Western Conference championship this season and looking like they could challenge for another.

The Oilers will potentially be in the way.

“What you’ve got is a young team establishing themselves in the division, with L.A. and Anaheim and us,” Pete DeBoer said on Tuesday, before the most recent Sharks-Oilers game. “Typically, you’ve got big, heavy, hard teams. It looks like they’re going to be right there. I don’t think they’re going anywhere.”

The enmity between the two sides started last late season, when the Oilers’ Darnell Nurse wailed away on a defenseless Roman Polak on March 8, after Nurse thought Polak had tripped Matt Hendricks from behind (replays later showed he never touched Hendricks). The Sharks didn’t have time for any retribution before that one ended, but recalled Micheal Haley for a game two weeks later, essentially for the sole purpose of fighting Nurse.

He did, and drilled Nurse with a right hook just three minutes after the opening faceoff.

In the first meeting this season on Dec. 23, a 3-2 Sharks overtime win, there was some more maliciousness when Brenden Dillon fought Hendricks, and Haley and Zack Kassian went at it in the first period. Later, Kassian and Dillon got into it themselves. The most recent meeting in Edmonton on Tuesday didn’t feature any rough stuff, but it was competitive. The Oilers trailed 4-1 to start the third, and got back to within 4-3 before Logan Couture’s insurance goal sealed a 5-3 Sharks win.

The Oilers feature some new players that are familiar to the Sharks after years of skating on other teams. There’s no love lost between the Sharks and Milan Lucic, dating back to his run-in with Logan Couture in the first game of the 2015-16 season between the Sharks and Kings. Patrick Maroon spent five seasons in Anaheim as part of some emotional battles between those rival clubs, and Kassian is no stranger, either, spending four seasons in Vancouver. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt.

Despite all that, though, no one was ready from either side to use the R-word just yet.

“I think you kind of get the rivalries once you get in the playoffs, like we have against L.A.,” Joe Thornton said. “I wouldn’t call it a rivalry quite yet, but who knows, down a couple years with the playoffs – hopefully you’ll build a bigger rivalry.”

McDavid would also welcome a playoff series. When asked if he senses a growing rivalry, the 19-year-old said: “Could be, yeah. Hopefully we get a chance to play them a bunch, and maybe have a few playoff series against them. They’re in our division, so you’re going to play them a lot of times. 

“We’re hoping to become a team like them, where we’re as successful as them. They’re kind of the top dog, and we’re trying to take them off. Definitely, maybe a little a bit.”

From the Oilers’ perspective, calling them a rival of the Sharks would be a compliment. It’s more evidence that they’re back, and once again a dangerous team after so many years of futility.

‘That means we’re improving as a team, and we’re in the mix,” McLellan said. “You have to have that for a rivalry, you don’t get a non-playoff team and a consistent playoff team really creating that. If it’s evolving that way, that’s a good thing for our group.”

Sharks hopeful Tomas Hertl can return to lineup Tuesday vs. Oilers


Sharks hopeful Tomas Hertl can return to lineup Tuesday vs. Oilers

SAN JOSE – After missing the last two games with a lower-body injury, Tomas Hertl may be ready to return to the San Jose Sharks lineup.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media after Monday’s practice he hopes the 25-year-old winger will be ready to see game action when San Jose hosts the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

“We’ll see how he feels after his first full practice,” DeBoer told the media. 

Hertl had participated in team practice since being injured in Team Teal’s game a week ago against the Predators but hadn’t taken line rushes until Monday. DeBoer reunited Hertl on a line with Logan Couture and Timo Meier, with whom he has found a lot of success through the start of the season.

Prior to being injured, Hertl registered 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) through 16 games.

Hertl’s return means the Sharks' other forward lines could look a little different from how they lined up in Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. Joe Pavelski skated with Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi, while the Joe Thornton-led line with Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc. Barclay Goodrow, Antti Suomela, Melker Karlsson, and Dylan Gambrell comprised the fourth line.

If Hertl is ready to play in Tuesday’s game, it’s likely Gambrell, who was recalled from the San Jose Barracuda over the weekend, will be scratched from the lineup.

How Sharks’ win over Blues brings them 'back in the right place'

How Sharks’ win over Blues brings them 'back in the right place'

SAN JOSE -- Between being shut out by the Blues eight days ago and dropping a 5-3 decision to the Maple Leafs on Thursday, the Sharks desperately needed a bounce-back performance Saturday night.

They did just that, shutting out the Blues 4-0.

“To have this game tonight was important for us, and it shows character in this room,” Erik Karlsson said. “I think for 60 minutes we played a well-played game.”

It was a game that featured many of the things the Sharks are typically known for — a strong defensive front in front of a strong goalie outing, with a little offensive firepower to lead the way.

“Tonight was kind of classic Sharks hockey,” Joe Pavelski said. “That was what we were striving for.”

[RELATED: Joe Pavelski named Third Star]

The biggest improvement Saturday night over San Jose’s previous few games was that the team tightened things up and had better control over the puck. The odd-man rushes that have plagued the Sharks and cost them leads in games were not an issue as they kept St. Louis from finding the back of the net. 

“We didn’t give them a lot off the rush tonight, which was one of the things we were trying to do,” Pavelski noted, adding that San Jose generated its offense by “being smart” this time around.

When the Blues looked as though they might get back into the game and make things interesting, netminder Aaron Dell stood tall to make the big saves.

“I thought our attention to detail was much better,” coach Peter DeBoer explained. “We were playing a little Russian roulette lately and losing. So, (the players) got the attention to detail of our game, which we’ve taken pride in here over the years, back in the right place.” 

Maintaining that attention to detail could end up being just what the Sharks need to really create some space between themselves and their Pacific Division opponents.

Team Teal finishes its six-game homestand this week against the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks. Both teams had been riding hot streaks and had more points on the young season than San Jose. But now, both have taken a tumble — heck, as of Saturday, Vancouver had lost five in a row. So, if the Sharks can continue playing in the detail-oriented manner they did Saturday, they could build some serious momentum headed into the end of the calendar year.

“Tonight was a good bounce-back game for us,” Pavelski said. “The big challenge for us now is to continue with that.”