EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers host their first playoff game in 11 years when they play the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series at Rogers Place on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports, NBCS CA).
The Oilers were second in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the Sharks, and qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The Sharks are the defending Western Conference champions and went to the Stanley Cup Final last season, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Here are 5 keys for Game 1:
1. Status of Sharks centers Joe Thornton and Logan Couture
Joe Thornton missed the final three games of the regular season with a knee injury sustained at the Vancouver Canucks on April 2. Logan Couture missed the final seven games of the regular season after being hit in the face with a puck at the Nashville Predators on March 25. Each player took part in an optional morning skate Wednesday and they will be game-time decisions, according to Sharks coach Peter DeBoer.
"They're obviously important; I don't think you can understate their importance to the group," DeBoer said. "But I also think we're built to handle injuries and we have depth. You can't feel sorry for yourself; it's next man up. We've played without significant players at different points over the last two years and managed to stay competitive, so that's the plan."
2. Experience factor
The Oilers are in the playoffs for the first time since playing Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, when they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Oilers roster has a total of 342 games of playoff experience, while the Sharks have 1,169. Forward Milan Lucic has the most playoff experience for the Oilers with 101 games.
"It's the first playoff game in Edmonton since 2006 and the first playoff game for a lot of guys," Lucic said. "I think it's inevitable that the nerves are going to be there and it's going to be ramped up. It's just about doing what you can to get past those first 10 minutes and doing what you can to get yourself physically and emotionally in the game so you can calm yourself down."
3. Playoff Connor McDavid
Oilers center Connor McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists). He finished the regular season on an NHL-best 14-game point streak with 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists).
McDavid said he hopes to continue having the same type of success going into his first game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's obviously a little bit of a different game, but hopefully I keep playing my game that has made me successful so far," McDavid said. "So I'm not going to change too much."
The Oilers won 12 of the 14 games during McDavid's point streak (12-2-0).
"I think everyone is feeling good," McDavid said. "We finished our season playing our division and I think everyone in our division is very good. We got some good tests and we handled them well, so the guys should be feeling good heading into tonight."
4. Goaltending matchup
Martin Jones helped the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final last season, his first as a starting goaltender in the NHL. Cam Talbot helped the Oilers qualify for the playoffs in his second season as a starter.
"Two guys that have come into the League and have had to earn everything they've got," DeBoer said. "So you have a ton of respect for guys like that and what he [Jones] did last year for us in that playoff run was exceptional. We have the utmost confidence in him and feel he's going to be one of our best players starting tonight."
5. Todd McLellan faces former team
Todd McLellan coached the Sharks for seven seasons (2008-15) before being hired by the Oilers prior to the 2015-16 season. In his first playoff appearance with the Oilers, McLellan will coach against the Sharks, and was asked if his history with them gives the Oilers an edge.
"I don't think it does," he said. "In fact, I don't know many players are left over there [from his tenure], but they understand our tendencies as a coach, they know our language, they know some of the things that we'd like to do. So I would say any advantage we have is negated by their knowledge of us as well, so I don't think it'll be a big issue at all in the series."
Sharks projected lineup
Injured:Joe Thornton (knee)
Oilers projected lineup
Injured:Tyler Pitlick (knee)
If Couture plays, he will wear a full face shield. … Pakarinen will play in Game 1 on the fourth line but Slepyshev also is expected to play in the series in that position.
McDavid had eight points (four goals, four assists) in five games against the Sharks this season. Klefbom had six points (one goal, five assists) in five games against the Sharks this season. … Burns had six points (two goals, four assists) in five games against the Oilers this season. Boedker had four points (three goals, one assist) in five games against the Oilers.
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