Oilers aim to halt home-ice woes vs. Sharks
EDMONTON, Alberta — It is becoming more apparent that there are two Edmonton Oilers teams.
The one that wears the white road jerseys bears no resemblance to the team that wears the bright orange duds at home.
At home, the Oilers are a miserable 5-10-0, have lost three in a row and have a penalty-kill efficiency of 57.8 percent.
On the road, the Oilers are 9-7-2 and have won five of their past six.
Problem is, when the San Jose Sharks play the Oilers on Monday in a rematch of a first-round playoff series from last season, the game will be played at Rogers Place.
The Sharks (17-10-4) are eight points ahead of the Oilers (14-17-2) in the Pacific Division standings.
The game is the first of a three-game homestand for Edmonton.
“We’re just trying to crawl back to their level and have a chance to compete with them at the end of the year,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’m not looking at it as a rivalry game. We’ve got an internal rivalry going on with our own team. Home, road, one good one, one bad one, and that’s the rivalry we’ll focus on and talk more about.”
McLellan has 403 career coaching wins; 311 of them came behind the Sharks’ bench.
McLellan said that defenseman Adam Larsson, who has been out since late November, is showing signs of progress. Veteran Andrej Sekera, who hasn’t played this season after sustaining a knee injury in last season’s playoffs, is getting closer to a return, but he won’t be ready for the date with Sharks.
“It’s a big stretch for us here on home ice,” Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse said of the coming homestand. “We want to go into the Christmas break feeling good about our game, feeling good about ourselves. A big part of that is going to be our ability to pick it up here on home ice. … We’ve just got to maintain our focus, the same way we’ve playing on the road, coming out hungry, putting pressure on other teams.”
After a slow start to the season that saw him score just once in the Sharks’ first 26 games of the season, Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Brent Burns has regained his goal-scoring form. He has five goals in the team’s most recent five games.
“It’s little differences every night,” Burns said of his personal hot streak. But he said that teams haven’t changed the way they have played against him since he was named the league’s top defenseman.
That viewpoint was shared by his coach, Peter DeBoer.
“I was asked about this from day one, it’s nothing other than they’re going in for him. Goal-scorers are streaky, and we said that when he gets one, more will follow. I think that’s what you’re seeing.”
The Sharks will have to do without Logan Couture, who left in the third period of San Jose’s Friday loss at Vancouver after he took a shot to the head. DeBoer confirmed Sunday that Couture is day-to-day with a concussion and will miss the Monday game.
Couture sat out the final seven games of the 2016-17 regular season after taking a puck to the jaw. He required extensive dental surgery and played hurt in the playoffs.
Couture hasn’t practiced with the Sharks since the Friday hit. He has 26 points in 31 games this season.
San Jose has scored just 85 times this season, the second-lowest total in the NHL, so losing Couture leaves a serious void in the offense.