In the Crease: Sharks visit freefalling Oilers

In the Crease: Sharks visit freefalling Oilers
March 25, 2014, 10:15 am
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Joe Pavelski could remain Todd MCLellan's third line center against Edmonton, although that could depend on Logan Couture’s availability. (AP)

Programming note: Sharks-Oilers coverage gets underway on Comcast SportsNet California at 6:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live

Where they stand
Sharks: 46-18-9, 101 points, 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference
Oilers: 25-38-9, 59 points, 7th Pacific Division, 14th Western Conference

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks’ four-game road winning streak was snapped with a 2-1 shootout loss in Calgary on Monday. James Sheppard scored his second goal in as many games, but that was all that San Jose would get back Karri Ramo. The Sharks lost Logan Couture for the majority of the game, after the center blocked a shot on the penalty kill in the first period, but coach Todd McLellan said Couture was “fine” after the game. The Sharks return home to host Winnipeg on Thursday.

[RATTO: Schedule favors Ducks as Sharks look to avoid drawing LA]

Oilers: Edmonton was flattened by Calgary on Saturday, 8-1, in an utter catastrophe of a game that featured another Oilers fan throwing his sweater on the ice surface and forward Taylor Hall accidentally soaking his coach with a water bottle. The Oilers have lost four of their last six (2-3-1), and close out a five-game homestand on Friday against Anaheim.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Joe Pavelski. Is Pavelski getting tired after not having the benefit of an Olympic break? The top line winger hasn’t scored a goal in seven games, and has just one assist over that span. He moved to center the third line late in the game against Calgary, and his line with Tommy Wingels and Marty Havlat looked dangerous. Perhaps Pavelski will remain as the third line center against Edmonton, although that could depend on Logan Couture’s availability.

Oilers: Ben Scrivens. The Edmonton goaltender, who recently signed a two-year contract extension, had maybe the best game any NHL goalie has played this season when he made 59 saves in a 3-0 Oilers win over the Sharks on Jan. 29. Scrivens is 6-7-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with Edmonton after the Oilers acquired him from the Kings. His .929 save percentage on the season is third in the league.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.90 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.30 (4th)
Power play: 15.8 percent (23rd)
Penalty kill: 85.0 percent (5th)

Oilers
Goals per game: 2.43 (T – 23rd)
Goals-against per game: 3.24 (28th)
Power play: 16.7 percent (20th)
Penalty kill: 82.6 percent (13th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Matt Nieto
Marty Havlat – James Sheppard – Tommy Wingels
Tyler Kennedy – Andrew Desjardins – Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Jason Demers
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Oilers
Taylor Hall – Sam Gagner – David Perron
Anton Lander – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Tyler Pitlick
Luke Gadzic – Ryan Smyth – Ryan Jones

Andrwe Ference – Justin Schultz
Martin Marincin – Jeff Petry
Oscar Klefbom – Mark Fraser

Ben Scrivens
Viktor Fasth

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery) and Raffi Torres (soreness/right knee surgery) are out. Logan Couture (lower body) is questionable.

Oilers: Richard Bachman (strained groin) and Jesse Joensuu (high ankle sprain) are out. Nail Yakupov (bruised ankle) is doubtful. Anton Belov (oblique) is questionable.

Season/All-Time series

San Jose won the first two games of the season against Edmonton by a combined 8-1 score, before Ben Scrivens’ heroics on Jan. 29. The teams complete their five-game series on April 1 at SAP Center.

Joe Thornton leads the Sharks with four points against the Oilers, all assists, while Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall each have one goal and two assists against the Sharks.

All-time, the Sharks are 43-37-7 against the Oilers, with 12 ties. They are 16-3-3 in the last 22, though.

Quoteable

“It was probably an inevitability. There is satisfaction in clinching. That’s one of the goals that we set out to do, and we’ve accomplished that.” – Todd McLellan

Burning question

Is it necessary for the Sharks to win the Pacific Division if they want to go on a long playoff run? Leave your answer in the comments section below.