Sharks-Oilers: What to watch for

March 6, 2012, 8:23 pm
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SAN JOSE Sharks coach Todd McLellan is set to return to the bench for tonights game at HP Pavilion against the Edmonton Oilers. McLellan has missed the last three games with a concussion suffered last Sunday against Minnesota.

Im going to go on the bench, give the bench my full attention, and Ill see how it goes from there, he said. I dont know whats going to happen. Im anticipating that Im going to be alert, and Im going to be sharp.

For a team that has lost eight of its last 10 games (2-7-1), it will take any sort of good news it can get as it struggles to maintain its place in the Western Conferences top eight. The Sharks (33-24-7) are in eighth place with 73 points, just one more than Los Angeles and Colorado.

Were letting some games just slip away and not picking up enough points, Logan Couture said. Sitting eighth in the conference with LA right behind us, its going down to the wire. We need to get some sort of points out of almost every game from here until the end of the year.

Its time to make it happen. Were in a position now where every game counts, Ryane Clowe said.

The Sharks are concluding a four-game homestand and will begin a four-game road trip on Thursday in Dallas. The week-long journey continues with stops in Phoenix, Edmonton and Calgary.
Improving D, but searching for O: The Sharks didnt have trouble putting the puck in the net during their brutal nine-game road trip in which they won just twice. The problem was keeping the puck out of their own net, allowing 35 goals over those nine games.

Since returning home, the Sharks have allowed just four goals in three games, but the offense has dried up. San Jose has just two goals, and is a combined 0-for-6 on the power play.

Weve got to earn our goals, and we just havent done that the last three games, Dan Boyle said. Weve gone through these things before and gotten out of it, so weve got to do that again.

McLellan touched on his teams season-long pattern of fixing one area of its game while letting another slide.

Were in repair mode a lot. Were never fully comfortable with what were doing in a certain area of the game. We get our offense going, and the defensive part of the game slips a little bit. We go and repair that, and the offensive zone goes, the coach explained.

Weve been chasing our game all year. Usually when youre doing that, youre not getting enough out of individuals and playing to your capabilities as a team. The responsibility lies on us as coaches to get that out of them, but they also have to bring it night in and night out.

Oilers surging power play: Edmonton (25-34-6, 56 points) enters the game well out of the playoff race, but the Oilers possess the leagues top-ranked power play with a 22.1 percent success rate. The Sharks penalty killing, an issue for most of the season, is 28th in the NHL at just 77.5 percent.

They have a youthful creativity to their game, and that shows through on the power play, McLellan said. Their young players have confidence and courage with the puck, and theyre not afraid to err with it. Sometimes that allows them to be very successful offensively, and we see that in their power play.

In the last seven games, the Sharks have allowed seven power play goals in 25 chances (72.0 percent), including a pair to St. Louis during Saturdays 3-1 home loss.

Newcomers Daniel Winnik, TJ Galiardi and Dominic Moore, acquired specifically to help eat up minutes on the PK, could see more action there tonight. Mondays practice offered the Sharks coaching staff the opportunity to help review the teams system.

Were hoping to get to the point where we could potentially throw a pair of them out together, but they will get some minutes, McLellan said. Hopefully were not penalty-killing and we dont have to worry about that.

Boyle said: When a team is clicking on the power play, youve got to try to stay out of the box as much as you can. Thats one thing we can do.

Lineup changes coming: Expect to see some different faces in the Sharks lineup tonight from Saturdays loss to St. Louis.

Michal Handzus and Andrew Desjardins, both healthy scratches against the Blues, skated on the teams fourth line with Galiardi for Monday's practice. Jason Demers, who also sat against the Blues, looks like hell be coming in for Justin Braun, based on the morning skate.

That leaves Brad Winchester and Benn Ferriero as the odd forwards out.

As for the top three lines, Joe Thornton was with Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau; Couture skated between Clowe and Tommy Wingels; while Dominic Moore centered Winnik and Torrey Mitchell.

And yes, folks, that means Colin White, who has been solid on the current homestand, remains in the lineup.
Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start in net for San Jose. The Sharks are 1-0-1 against the Oilers this season, with Edmonton winning the most recent game, 2-1 in a shootout, on Jan. 23 at Rexall Place. Edmonton lost 4-2 in Anaheim on Monday night. Jordan Eberle leads the Oilers with 29 goals.