The Edmonton Oilers know they can’t afford to put in another listless effort Monday night.
Not showing up against the Calgary Flames is one thing, but lying down for the San Jose Sharks could really leave a mark.
“They’re one of those teams that every year - sometimes later than others - they really nail their game and have success,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “Even thought they had a tough loss the other night, they’re playing a good game and we know we’ll have our hands full.”
The Sharks roll into town third in the Western Conference, once again cruising through the regular season on their way to another playoff run.
The Oilers, meanwhile, are barley keeping their heads above water, trying to keep from ending up in the NHL basement for the third consecutive season.
The only good news for the club lately is that Jordan Eberle will be participating in the NHL All-Star game in Ottawa after all, getting the call as a replacement for Minnesota Wild centre Mikko Koivu.
Prior to that, however, the Oilers have to contend with a talented Sharks team.
“Obviously their top line is really good and the rest of their team is a high-energy team, big bodies, strong,” said Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid. “We have to try and play simple hockey, move the puck past their forecheck, because we know they’re going to get the puck deep, they’re going to come hard and finish their checks.
“We have to move the puck quickly and simply, try to get it in their zone and do the same thing.”
The last time the two teams met, the Oilers put up a good fight in a 3-2 loss in San Jose.
Putting up a fight is the main focus for the Oilers heading into the contest, having been worked over by the Flames in a 6-2 loss Saturday night.
“We can’t get run out of the building like that, especially against Calgary,” said Smid. “I think everybody realizes that, we had a good, hard practice (Sunday) which I think it got everybody’s attention.
“We have to forget what happened Saturday and I think it’s going to be a brand new team and we’re going to come out hard and hopefully we can win this game.”
The Oilers will be inserting their three latest call-ups – Lennart Petrell, Teemu Hartikainen and Taylor Chorney, into the lineup, while Devan Dubnyk gets the call in goal.
Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk draw the short straws and will sit in the press box, while Ryan Whitney won’t be making a return to the lineup just yet, more likely to play Tuesday night in Vancouver.
The Oilers head into the contest having lost three straight and eight of their last night. The Sharks, meanwhile, go in having dropped their last two. They haven’t lost three consecutive games this season since dropping their second, third and fourth games of the year.
“What we need to do is be mentally tough,” Renney said. “We have to understand that there is an ebb and flow to every game, there are momentum swings and things happen. You’d like to be able to control every aspect of the game and sometimes you don’t and you have to deal with that.
“As much as anything tonight, I want to be able to deal with the circumstances as they present themselves.”