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Hitchcock-led Oilers look to alter fortunes vs. Sharks

Sports Xchange
21 Nov 2018, 03:30 GMT+10

A new voice will be behind the Edmonton Oilers' bench starting Tuesday night.

Ken Hitchcock will debut as the team's 15th head coach when the Oilers meet the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Hitchcock, who ranks third on the all-time wins list with 823, takes over for Todd McLellan, who was fired Tuesday morning. Edmonton will be the fifth different stop for the 66-year-old Hitchcock after he coached the Dallas Stars twice as well as the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues.

A native of Edmonton, Hitchcock guided the Stars to their only Stanley Cup championship in 1999.

While there's still more than 60 games left, the Oilers decided that a new voice was needed. Edmonton (9-10-1) has dropped six of its last seven after Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in what was McLellan's finale after three-plus seasons.

Cam Talbot allowed three goals in a 2:12 span of the second period -- including one while short-handed and one on the power play. The Oilers failed to bounce back after squandering a two-goal lead in the third period of Saturday's road loss to the rival Calgary Flames.

Though it's not yet known who will start against the Sharks, Talbot has lost five straight starts overall, posting a 4.63 goals-against average with an .845 save percentage. Backup Mikko Koskinen is 4-2-0 with a 2.60 GAA, a .917 save percentage and one shutout so far.

Offense is not an issue if captain Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl is putting the puck in the net. The linemates have accounted for more than 42 percent of the team's goals and are tied for the team lead with 12 each.

Draisaitl has three goals and an assist in a four-game points streak on the road, and McDavid has points in 10 of 11 games outside Edmonton in 2018-19. McDavid, a two-time scoring champion, also needs one goal for 100 in his career and has four in his last five visits to SAP Center.

Darrell Nurse said it's not time to push the panic button on the season just yet.

"The season is not getting away at all," the defenseman told the Edmonton Journal. "But we know we have to string some wins together here."

After taking the season series-opener in 2017-18, Edmonton has surrendered 15 goals while losing three straight to San Jose (11-7-3), which is looking for its fourth win in five games. Aaron Dell made 30 saves and Joe Pavelski stayed red-hot with two goals in a 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

"Tonight was kind of classic Shark hockey," said Pavelski, who was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday after collecting five goals and an assist in three games.

San Jose's captain already has a team-best 13 goals after registering 22 in 82 games last season. The 33-year-old Pavelski scored four times with six assists against Edmonton last season while none of his teammates logged more than five points.

"The age is irrelevant when you have a hockey IQ like that," coach Peter DeBoer said of the 13-year veteran. "He knows where to go, combines it with a competitiveness and he's willing to go to the tough areas of the ice and compete without thinking of it."

Unlike the Oilers, the Sharks have a solid No. 1 option in net and he's expected to get the nod Tuesday. Martin Jones is 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts in spite of a 2.91 GAA and .899 save percentage. He's also 3-2-1 with a 2.35 GAA in five career starts against Edmonton in Northern California.

San Jose's Joe Thornton has been held without a point in each of his last two games and still needs one assist to tie Mario Lemieux for 11th all-time with 1,033.

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