Oilers-Sharks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 06, 2012
The San Jose Sharks are trying to reverse what's becoming a free fall through the Western Conference standings. Re-establishing their dominance over the last-place Edmonton Oilers could be a good place to start. With coach Todd McLellan hoping to return to the bench Tuesday night, the Sharks attempt to beat the Oilers for the sixth time in seven meetings at HP Pavilion. San Jose (33-24-7) has dropped 11 of 15 to fall from first place in the Pacific Division and into the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, only one point ahead of Los Angeles and Colorado. "We're in a funk and we need to get out of it and get it going," defenseman Douglas Murray said. "It's easy to talk. We have to get it done on the ice, get some wins, get the confidence level up as a team. We're too good a team to let this go on any longer." They haven't done themselves any favors by dropping two of the first three contests on their four-game homestand. Those struggles continued Saturday as San Jose, playing its third straight game without McLellan behind the bench, fell 3-1 to St. Louis. The coach has been suffering from concussion symptoms after being hit in the head by a stick during a 4-3 loss at Minnesota on Feb. 26. Possibly having McLellan back and a meeting with Edmonton (25-34-6) could be just what San Jose needs to reverse its slide. The Sharks are 10-2-1 in their last 13 games against the Oilers. They won 3-2 in the most recent home meeting Dec. 17, but settled for a point in a 2-1 shootout loss on the road Jan. 23. Logan Couture scored San Jose's goal in the Jan. 23 contest before missing the decisive attempt in the tiebreaker. The center, who sat out two games with a lower-body injury before returning Saturday, has three goals and one assist in his last five games against Edmonton. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have also enjoyed success versus the Oilers, with nine points apiece in the last six home matchups in San Jose. Both forwards are currently struggling, though. Marleau hasn't managed a point in his last three games, while Thornton has been kept off the scoresheet in his last two. Buried at the bottom of the Northwest Division, the Oilers have dropped three in a row including Monday's 4-2 defeat at Anaheim. Edmonton owns the league's best power play, but didn't get a chance with the man advantage against the Ducks until late in the third period. Jordan Eberle converted his team-leading 29th goal. "We're a young team and inexperienced, and maybe we're not getting the calls that maybe we should,'' said Shawn Horcoff, who ended his own six-game goal drought with a second-period tally. "But listen, we're in 29th place, so we're not going to get a lot of breaks out there. The biggest thing for us is just to not complain, because it's only going to make things worse. We just have to stick with it, because when we do get the power-play unit out there, we've proved to be successful.'' Eberle continues to be a bright spot for Edmonton, with four goals and three assists in his last seven games. He has three goals and one assist in five career meetings with the Sharks, including a goal in each of his last two. Second-year left wing Taylor Hall has scored twice while setting up three other tallies in three career visits to San Jose.
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