Sharks-Oilers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 11, 2012
It has been a disastrous last month for the San Jose Sharks, who are tumbling down the Western Conference standings. The lowly Edmonton Oilers have already contributed to their woes. The Sharks, the NHL's only winless team in March, again try to break out of their funk and avenge last week's home loss to the Oilers on Monday night at Rexall Place. San Jose (33-25-9) has lost five straight since a 1-0 win over Philadelphia on Feb. 28 and is 2-8-3 since Feb. 16, when it owned a four-point lead atop the Pacific Division. The Sharks are now six points behind division-leading Dallas and one back of eighth place in the West. A sputtering offense has been the biggest reason for the struggles. San Jose has scored three goals or fewer in 12 straight games and no more than two in nine of them. It has also failed to score on all 13 power-play chances during its March skid. The team's leading scorers, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau (27 goals apiece), have been slumping. Couture has gone a season-worst seven games without a score, while Marleau has one goal in his last seven. The Sharks failed to light the lamp for the second time in five games Saturday at Phoenix, losing 3-0 to drop to 1-6-2 on the road since Feb. 16. Antti Niemi fell to 0-3-2 this month despite a 2.34 goals-against average that's slightly lower than it was through February. "We didn't score and did not give our pitcher any runs," coach Todd McLellan said. "Not getting any goals is a slide, and not winning is a slide.'' The Sharks once again had plenty of opportunities, outshooting the Coyotes 42-29. They fired 48 shots on goal in Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas and lead the league in shots with 34.5 per game. "It seems to be a similar pattern here,'' Dan Boyle said. "We had several grade-A chances, but didn't put the puck away.'' In Tuesday's home game against Edmonton (26-35-7), it was the Oilers who took advantage of an early scoring opportunity off a misplay by Boyle. The defenseman couldn't control Ryan Whitney's dump-in in front of the net and Jordan Eberle batted the puck out of the air for a goal 10 seconds into the game - the fastest score ever allowed by San Jose. Edmonton went on to win 3-2 in a shootout, its only victory in the last six games. Ryan Smyth also scored in regulation and Sam Gagner recorded the only goal in the shootout to help the Oilers earn their second straight shootout victory over San Jose. The Sharks, who have 16 more points than Edmonton, were 10-2-0 in the previous 12 meetings. Devan Dubnyk made 28 saves while allowing goals to Jim Vandermeer and Ryane Clowe, but he has given way to Nikolai Khabibulin in Edmonton's two games since. Khabibulin stopped 26 of 30 shots in a loss to Montreal on Thursday and 30 in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss at Colorado. He is 0-3-2 with a 3.33 GAA in six games since Feb. 15 and has a 3.72 GAA in losing his last three starts to the Sharks. Dubnyk has posted a 1.58 GAA in winning his last three games versus San Jose.
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