Injuries and experience viewed the keys as Oilers face Sharks in NHL playoffs

Injuries, experience keys to Sharks vs Oilers

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers return to the NHL playoffs Wednesday against the battled-hardened Western Conference-champion San Jose Sharks in a series expected to turn on experience —and injuries.

Centres Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are day-to-day with injuries for the Sharks, who ended the last three weeks of the regular season in freefall.

“They’re missing a couple of key guys and they make a world of difference,” said centre Connor McDavid after Edmonton wrapped up its regular season second in the Pacific Division.

Couture has been skating but is still in pain after being drilled in the face by a redirected Brent Burns slapshot March 25. Thornton injured his left knee in a collision a week ago against the Vancouver Canucks.

Couture is a critical piece as he would be tasked with shadowing and shutting down McDavid, the NHL’s fleet-footed scoring champion. McDavid will lead a cast of newbies on to the ice Wednesday at Rogers Place for the opening game of the first-round series.

The Oilers have not been in the post-season since 2006 when they made a miracle march that ended with a loss in the Stanley Cup final to the Carolina Hurricanes. Along the way, they beat the Sharks in six games, the only time the two squads have hooked up in the playoffs.

Key forwards like McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defencemen Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse will play their first NHL playoff games.

Other players such as Benoit Pouliot, Patrick Maroon, David Desharnais, and Mark Letestu have some experience in the post-season. And then there’s Milan Lucic, a veteran of 101 playoff games and a Stanley Cup in Boston.

Lucic say when a veteran team like the Sharks gets close to the Stanley Cup, it’s addictive.

“I know what they’re feeling,” said Lucic. “I’ve been a part of teams that have gone to the final and the next year once you get to that 50-, 60-, 70-game mark you can’t wait for the playoffs to start again.

“You know they’re confident. You know they passed up on an opportunity (to win it all) last year and they’re going to try to do whatever they can to not pass up on it this year.”

Eberle said the Oilers won’t be wide-eyed when the puck drops.

“We have enough experience in this locker room to handle the playoffs,” he said.

Eberle is especially looking forward to the tournament. He’s now in his seventh NHL season, all with Edmonton, and has yet to play for the big prize.

“It’s been frustrating. This is usually the last day (of the season) for me,” said Eberle. “It’s what you play hockey for, to get into the post-season and I have a chance to do that finally.”

The numbers favour the Oilers.

Edmonton finished second in the Pacific Division with 103 points. The Sharks appeared to have the division locked up in mid-March, only to lose nine of their last 13 to tumble to third with 99 points.

The Oilers beat the Sharks three out of five games, including twice in the last two weeks.

Another factor is Oilers head coach Todd McLellan and assistants Jay Woodcroft and Jim Johnson. All three parted ways with the Sharks two years ago and are now back in the playoffs facing their former team.

“Our coaches probably know that team better than anybody in the league, so it will help,” said Eberle. “But we’ve played them enough during the season that we know how they play.

“We know their key guys and what they want to do. It’s just a matter of out-working and out-playing them.”

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Video: Natalie Wilkie wins gold in Women’s 7.5km ski race as hometown cheers her on

Salmon Arm skier takes home her second medal of the PyeongChang Paralympics

Making new furry friends at the Meet the Breeds event in Salmon Arm

Centenoka Park Mall hosts Vernon & District Kennel Club’s showcase of well-trained pups

Medical team help Guatemalan mothers, babies

Okanagan-Shuswap professionals improve health by training traditional birth attendants

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Choose a brand for Salmon Arm

What do you think of three options offered to attract people to visit, live and invest in city.

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

Federal government seeks public feedback on pedestrian safety

What safety measures do you think need to improved for pedestrians and cyclists?

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Canucks snap scoreless streak but fall short in 5-3 loss to Sharks

Swiss forward Timo Meier nets two, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Canadian research vessel to explore 19th Century shipwrecks

Commissioned this week in Victoria, the RV David Thompson is Parks Canada’s newest vessel

UPDATED: ‘New wave’ of anti-pipeline protests return to Trans Mountain facility

About 100 demonstrators with Protect the Inlet marched to the Burnaby terminal Saturday

Most Read