As teams jockey for playoff positioning, the San Jose Sharks understand the need to give an all-out effort every minute of every game to move up in the standings.
That mindset will be tested Saturday night when the Sharks take on red-hot Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers for the first time this season at SAP Center.
San Jose (28-18-8) is in a three-way tie with the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks for third in the Pacific Division, one point behind the second-place Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks also have a game in hand over the Flames and two over the Ducks.
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However, San Jose has five losses in its last seven games after falling 5-3 to the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night. Joe Pavelski scored twice and Brent Burns drew three assists, but the expansion Knights rallied with the final three goals of the game.
“We didn’t play our game for the full 60 minutes,” San Jose winger Timo Meier told the league’s official website. “We played in their zone, dominated, but we need to do that for 60 minutes.”
The Sharks are trying to avoid their fourth consecutive home loss after winning a season-best five in a row from Dec. 21 through Jan. 20.
Burns has four goals and six assists in his last 10 home games, and leads San Jose with 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists). Meanwhile, Pavelski has 10 goals and 11 assists in 23 career home games against the Oilers.
Edmonton (23-26-4), which lost 3-2 to Anaheim on Friday night, is sixth in the Pacific with 50 points and watching its playoff hopes dwindle after coming within a game of the conference final last season.
“We need to play well. We need those points,” defenseman Brandon Davidson said.
The Oilers are 2-2-1 in the second of back-to-back games in 2017-18.
“We’ve got one more game on this road trip … we’ve just got to keep working and play better,” said defenseman Kris Russell, who scored in the loss.
The Sharks are hoping to avoid their fourth defeat in five home games to the Oilers. San Jose must focus on containing McDavid, who has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in a five-game streak.
With 63 points, last season’s Hart Trophy winner is tied with Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau for third in the league in scoring behind Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins (65) and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov (68).
Seven of McDavid’s nine career points against the Sharks have come in San Jose, where he’s recorded three consecutive two-point games. But he has only four assists in the back end of consecutive games this season.
The Oilers are guaranteed to face either a struggling goaltender or one they’ve yet to play against.
Martin Jones has surrendered six goals while losing each of his last two starts, and is 1-4-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average since Jan. 18. He’s also surrendered at least four goals in three of those contests.
Since joining the Sharks in 2015, Jones is 2-2-0 with a 2.44 GAA and .895 save percentage at home versus the Oilers.
Aaron Dell, who has never faced Edmonton, is 13-4-3 with a 2.44 GAA, and two shutouts this season. He’s been reached for 11 goals while losing each of his last two starts at home.
Cam Talbot dropped the first two games of Edmonton’s California road trip, and with the Oilers playing on back-to-back nights, Al Montoya (1-0-1, 1.98 GAA, with Edmonton) could give Talbot a rest. Montoya is 2-1-0 with a 2.68 GAA and .922 save percentage in his career at SAP Center.
On Dec. 18, Edmonton topped the Sharks, 5-3. Ryan Strome scored twice while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins collected a goal and an assist in the win. Strome has one goal in 19 games since then, and Nugent-Hopkins (upper-body injury) is not expected back until late this month.
San Jose will be without winger Joel Ward (upper-body injury) indefinitely after being hit from behind by Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt midway through the second period on Thursday.
“You feel for him,” coach Peter DeBoer told the San Jose Mercury News. “It’s a loss for us. Leadership in the room and on the ice.”
The 11-year veteran has five goals, including two game-winners, and six assists in 46 games.