Programming note – Sharks-Oilers coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California
WHERE THEY STAND
Sharks: 24-14-2, 50 points, 1st Pacific Division
Oilers: 21-14-7, 49 points, 3rd Pacific Division
PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES
***Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be a game-time decision, according to Pete DeBoer, but indications were that he would likely return after missing the last four games. Vlasic was taking shifts on the Rogers Place ice with regular partner Justin Braun.
Vlasic, who looks noticeably better as the swelling has gone down in his face, said: "I'm doing my thing. We'll see tonight."
The defenseman said last week that he suffered "a couple fractures" and some nerve damage from taking a the Shayne Gostisbehere shot to the mouth late in a 2-0 win over Philadelphia on Dec. 30. He's still in some discomfort, though, and said: "Until the nerves heal, I'll still have some pain."
Vlasic was wearing an extra-long visor that came down to about his chin level.
If he plays, Vlasic would replace Mirco Mueller, who stayed on the ice late Tuesday morning. Tim Heed may get in on defense, perhaps in place of Dylan DeMelo, although DeBoer wasn't revealing anything.
Also judging from the morning skate, Micheal Haley will return on the fourth line in place of Tommy Wingels.
***The timing would seem to be ideal to get Vlasic back in the lineup, as the Oilers' top line of Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl is tearing up the league. McDavid remains atop the league scoring race with 48 points (14g, 34a).
"With or without him, we've got to have all five guys defending against a guy like that and a line like that," DeBoer said. "It would be nice to have Vlasic, but if we don't, it's still a five-man commitment from whoever we do have."
***The Sharks and Oilers were battling for first place the last time they met on Dec. 23, a 3-2 overtime win for San Jose at SAP Center. Edmonton would overtake the Sharks in the standings with a regulation win tonight (although the Sharks have two games in hand).
Tonight also marks the official halfway point of the regular season for the Sharks. It's time to start looking at the standings more frequently, Joe Pavelski indicated.
"You get to that halfway mark you start thinking a little bit more about positioning, and these guys have played well," said the captain. "They gave us a good game [on Dec. 23]. So, it will be competitive.
"We understand the situation in the standings. Everyone is so close together, so any time you can get a couple points, it's important. If we can create a little separation in these games, that [would be] nice."
KEEP AN EYE ON...
Sharks: Patrick Marleau. The all-time franchise scoring leader was bumped from the top line two games ago, but he's scored a goal in each of those last two games while skating on the third line. He has six points (3g, 3a) in his last five games, and sits seven goals shy of 500 for his career.
Oilers: Patrick Maroon. The big winger leads the Oilers with 16 goals, and was named as the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Jan. 9, colleting five goals and one assist in four games including a hat trick in Boston on Jan. 5. He remains alongside star center Connor McDavid.
Timo Meier – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Melker Karlsson – Micheal Haley – Mikkel Boedker
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo
Martin Jones (starter)
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Zack Kassian
Benoit Pouliot – Drake Caggiula – Jordan Eberle
Anton Lander – Mark Letestu – Matt Hendricks
Oscar Klefbom – Eric Gryba
Andrej Sekera – Matt Benning
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson
Cam Talbot (starter)
Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (face) is a game-time decision. David Schlemko (upper body) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.
Oilers: Brandon Davidson (illness) is day-to-day. Iiro Pakarinen (knee), Darnell Nurse (ankle surgery) and Tyler Pitlick (lower body) are out.
"I like our group when we're healthy. We haven't been. It's hard for me to say because we haven't had [Tomas] Hertl like we didn't have Couture for 20-30 games. You plug him in and you're a different team. If we can get healthy, I'm excited about the group we have here." – Pete DeBoer, on if he likes where the Sharks are at the midway point of the season