Sharks-Oilers: What to watch for

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Sharks-Oilers: What to watch for

EDMONTON After a pair of key divisional losses, the Sharks will get yet another chance to try and reverse what is becoming a dramatic downfall tonight in Edmonton.

San Jose has won just four of its last 18 games (4-11-3) and sits in 11th place in the Western Conference. The Sharks lost in Dallas on Thursday, 4-3 in a shootout, and in Phoenix on Saturday, 3-0, in the first two games of a four-game trip that concludes tomorrow night in Calgary.

With a win and a Colorado loss in Anaheim, the Sharks would move back into eighth place in the West.

Its a fight. Today we sit in the 11th spot and we have to win some games, Joe Thornton said. The good thing is fate is in our hands, so as long as we win well be fine. Well be in the party. Weve been playing better as of late. Were just not scoring, but the urgency is there right now.

The Sharks have fired 178 shots on net during their five game losing streak (0-3-2), but have scored just seven times. They believe the chances are there, and that the goals will soon follow.

Patrick Marleau said: If we were only putting up 20 shots a night and not getting many goals it would be a little bit concerning, but were getting the chances and getting the shots so weve got to stick with it.

Weve still got to get some more guys in front of the net. We keep putting 40, 45 shots on net well be fine, Thornton said. A lot of guys are squeezing their sticks, theyve just got to relax and let ability take over.

Playing loose: The Edmonton Oilers are out of the playoff race, and, consequently, are playing a looser brand of hockey and taking more chances as they try to play the role of spoiler down the stretch. Theyve won just once in their last six games (1-4-1, with the lone victory a 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks last Tuesday), but still have some of the more talented young players in the game like Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Theyve got a lot of young players that like to make a lot of plays. They obviously dont have a lot of pressure on them so theyre playing loose, Ryane Clowe said.

Todd McLellan thinks that the frustrated Sharks could take notice of the Oilers attitude.

We know theyre fast, we know theyre skilled, and we know theyre playing very loose right now and can just come out and really have fun and enjoy the game, said the head coach. Thats something that Id like our guys to do, but with the situation were in, they seem to squeeze the sticks a little bit too much.

Clowe agreed.

As much as you can relax, I think thats a good thing, he said.

New look lines: In an effort to generate more offense, McLellan mixed up his lines for the full-team morning skate at Rexall Place on Monday morning.

Thornton skated between Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski; Marleau was in the middle of Clowe and Daniel Winnik; Dominic Moore centered Torrey Mitchell and Tommy Wingels, while the fourth line looks to be Andrew Desjardins, TJ Galiardi and Benn Ferriero.

Trying to find some goals. Trying to continue with good defensive play. Were looking for maybe some of the unusual suspects to maybe come up with one or two, McLellan said.

Moving Marleau from the top line to the second line center, and putting Couture on Thorntons line are the most noticeable changes.

Marleau has got some size and he can have some speed through the middle. Maybe he can help a guy like Ryane Clowe out, McLellan said. Coutch, on the other hand, has dried up a little bit so well try and mix him up with some different players and see if we can get him going, as well.

Marleau has just one goal in the last six games (his only point), while Couture has one assist in four games since returning from a lower body injury.

For those keeping track, that would leave Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester as the odd men out against Edmonton.

Playoffs starting now: With just 15 games in the regular season and the Sharks sinking in the standings every day, the team is trying to embrace a playoffs start now philosophy. That includes the proverbial one-game-at-a-time mantra.

Thats where you get in trouble, when you start counting down the games and say you have this many games to turn it around, Wingels said. I think our whole team looks at one game at a time. You cant look past tonights game. Obviously, if you dont win the games in hand, it just puts you in a bigger hole.

McLellan likened the pressure the Sharks are feeling now to getting down in a playoff series.

Weve been in this situation before, it just so happens that its usually in the first round, where were fighting for our lives and where the stress is a little bit higher than it normally is. Its a month earlier, he said. Weve been through this before for many years straight, it just happens that it comes in April.

Were dealing with it well. Guys are working hard and trying to play a team game. A lot of times when its not going well, you find guys turning to individuals trying to do too much. For the most part were playing in a team game and we believe in each other, so we have an opportunity to get where we want to go.

In the net: Antti Niemi will make his seventh straight start in net for the Sharks. Hes won just one of those six, but has a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over that span.

Niemi is 2-0-1 in his career against Edmonton, with a 1.44 GAA and .936 save percentage.

Devan Dubnyk, who made 28 saves through overtime and then stopped all three Sharks attempts in the shootout on March 6, starts for the Oilers.

Odds and ends: This is the fourth and final game between the teams this season. The last time the Sharks were out of playoffs position this late in the year was in 2006. They finished the season 14-4-2 and ended up as the fifth seed in the West. Marty Havlat remains out for the Sharks.

Sharks 'competed our asses off' in rewarding win over Kings

Sharks 'competed our asses off' in rewarding win over Kings

LOS ANGELES – It’s only mid-January, but the Sharks have already concluded the five-game season series with their biggest rival. That could be a good thing, as Sharks-Kings games are rarely for the faint of heart. 

“I’m glad to be done with them. If we don’t see them again, I’ll be alright with that,” Pete DeBoer quipped.

On the other hand, Wednesday’s latest and final head-to-head matchup resulted in perhaps the Sharks’ most rewarding win of the season, 3-2 at Staples Center. 

San Jose got contributions from up and down its lineup. Despite being without several key players (including Logan Couture, who missed the game due to illness), the Sharks worked hard and smart all over the ice and put some distance between themselves and Los Angeles, which is fighting to remain in playoff position.

“It was a good feeling in this [dressing] room when we came in here [after the game],” said Joe Pavelski, who scored one of the Sharks’ three goals. “Just felt like you put a complete effort out there.”

DeBoer said: “A little bit of a thin lineup, and I thought we competed our asses off. Played hard. This isn’t an easy building to win in. They play a physical game. We stood in there, and I thought played a real complete game.”

Special teams was key, as the Sharks got a power play goal from Pavelski and held the Kings to no goals and just one power play shot on four chances. Martin Jones was his typical solid self, even throwing in a highlight reel save on Dwight King in the third period to preserve the one-goal. Brent Burns continued to dominate, getting yet another goal in the first period (his 19th), and Joe Thornton notched a pair of assists.

And, the fourth line got in on the action, too. Micheal Haley was one of the team’s best forwards of the evening, beautifully setting up Tommy Wingels on a two-on-one, who gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish with less than five minutes to go in the first period.

“Just tried to make an early pass so [Wingels] had enough time to have a good look, and he made a great shot,” Haley said.

DeBoer said: “Big goal from those guys.”

Defensively, Los Angeles was held to just 24 shots, as the Sharks kept the Kings’ stars at bay. That includes Jeff Carter, who was the best player on the ice in the most recent meeting on Jan. 3, and has been far and away Los Angeles’ most valuable player this season.

“He’s a world class player and he’s having a world class season,” DeBoer said of Carter. “He’s dangerous every time he’s on the ice.”

The Sharks played a committed and detailed game in their own end, though, not giving Carter or anyone else much room to operate in their offensive zone. Los Angeles’ scoring chances were few and far between.

Last week, the Sharks failed to put some distance between themselves and another division rival nipping on their heels, the Flames. They didn’t want that to happen again with the Kings, who could have pulled to within four points of San Jose with a regulation win.

Instead, the Kings are now eight points back of San Jose after losing three of the five meetings. And they don’t have any more of those four-point games left on the schedule.

“You always want to win a season series,” Pavelski said. “It was just important because I think we all know it was pretty tight in the standings. It goes [to] four or eight [points], you know?”

Haley said: “We want to make that distance farther and farther. They’re always in the back of our head.”

Instant Replay: Complete effort helps Sharks hold off and take down rival Kings in LA

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AP

Instant Replay: Complete effort helps Sharks hold off and take down rival Kings in LA

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES – Brent Burns, Tommy Wingels and Joe Pavelski scored goals, and a brilliant performance by the penalty killers keyed a Sharks win over the Kings on Wednesday at Staples Center, 3-2.

The Sharks finished the season 3-1-1 against the Kings, and have won four of their last six overall (4-2-0). Los Angeles concluded a seven-game homestand with a 3-4-0 mark, dropping eight points behind San Jose in the Pacific Division.

After trading early scores, San Jose scored twice to jump out to a 3-1 lead.

Wingels gave the Sharks their second lead of the night at 15:42 of the first period, burying a Micheal Haley pass on a two-on-one rush.

Then, on a second period power play, Joel Ward redirected a Joe Thornton shot wide, but Pavelski grabbed it off of the end boards and bounced it in off of Peter Budaj at the 10-minute mark.

Los Angeles got one back at 15:19. Kyle Clifford stepped out of the penalty box making it a three-on-two, and after Martin Jones stopped Clifford try from the slot, the puck squirted to Marian Gaborik who easily directed it into the open net.

The Kings’ nearly tied it with about 14:20 to go, but Jones made a brilliant stop on Dwight King’s rebound try, lunging at the shot with his right pad.

Los Angeles failed on four power play chances, getting just one shot in nearly eight minutes.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture for the first time this season. According to coach Pete DeBoer, Couture remained in San Jose due to an illness. Patrick Marleau centered the second line, while Melker Karlsson took Marleau’s place on the Thornton-Pavelski line.

The teams traded first period goals. Burns’ wrister from high in the zone deflected off of Anze Kopitar’s stick and high over Budaj at 3:31, but Los Angeles responded on Tanner Pearson’s redirection of Derek Forbort’s floater at 5:46.

According to Elias, Burns is the first defenseman to have at least 19 goals through the first 45 games of the season since Paul Coffey had 22 in 1985-86.

Thornton notched two assists, moving into 24th all-time on the NHL’s scoring list with 1,370 points, passing Johnny Bucyk.

Special teams

In a game that featured an abundance of questionable calls, the Sharks went 1-for-4 while remaining perfect on the PK. San Jose has one power play goal in three of its last four games (3-for-13).

The Kings had one power play goal in each of the first four head-to-head meetings before Wednesday.

In goal

Jones improved to 6-2-2 against his former team, making 22 stops. He was starting for the eighth time in the last nine.

Budaj allowed three goals on 27 shots. He continues to get the bulk of the work with Jonathan Quick still out from a groin injury suffered on opening night in San Jose.

Lineup

In Couture’s place, Ryan Carpenter played for the first time since Nov. 30, when he scored his first NHL goal at Staples Center. Barclay Goodrow and Tim Heed, recalled on Tuesday, were scratched.

Kopitar played for the Kings after missing Monday’s game with an illness.

Up next

The Sharks will battle the Lightning at home in the second of two meetings on Thursday. On Nov. 12, San Jose beat Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena, 3-1. In the second of back-to-backs, the Sharks are 4-3-0 this season.