Sharks can't afford to lose more ground tonight vs. Oilers

Sharks can't afford to lose more ground tonight vs. Oilers
April 1, 2014, 1:00 pm
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I think we understand them enough to know that they can win a game 6-1 on any given night against any team in the league. They have that ability.
Todd McLellan on the Oilers

Programming note: Sharks-Oilers coverage gets underway with Sharks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (Channel locations)

SAN JOSE – The worst part of the Sharks’ schedule is over. A brutal 17 games in 31 days concluded on Saturday in Colorado, and the team was able to relax for a day and a half before resuming practice on Monday.

Now, there are six games remaining in the regular season, and the Sharks cannot afford to squander many (if any) more points if they want to capture the Pacific Division. That includes Tuesday against Edmonton, which is playing out the string after yet another failed season.

“We knew when we sat down before the season even started, we looked at this segment and knew it would be our toughest run of games, travel, opponents,” said Todd McLellan, adding that the team’s injury situation hasn’t helped, either.

“All of that is taxing, but we’re through it now. We’ve got four of our last six here at home, and got to get back at it. We’ll find enough time to rest our players and make sure they’re ready to go.”

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A game against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday stands out in a three-game homestand, but it’s sandwiched between Tuesday’s game against the Oilers and a Saturday tilt with Nashville. The Sharks have lost as many games as they’ve won against the bottom four teams in the Western Conference, with a 7-5-2 mark against Edmonton, Calgary, Nashville and Winnipeg. That doesn’t even include post-Olympic break defeats to Florida, Buffalo and Carolina.

Has there been a general theme in those losses?

“Inconsistency,” McLellan said. “We’re sloppy at times, play well for 15 minutes in a period, go to sleep for five. Details that maybe gets away on us a little bit more against some of the non-playoff teams than it does against the Boston’s and St. Louis’s.”

The Sharks will almost certainly have to take care of business against the Oilers tonight in order to remain in Pacific Division race. They now trail Anaheim by three points, after the Ducks’ epic comeback from a 4-0 hole against Winnipeg on Monday night. The Ducks have one game in hand, and will own the tiebreaker from here on out.

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McLellan’s message to his club will be to not take the lowly Oilers for granted, after Edmonton played the Sharks well in the previous meeting before San Jose’s power play broke out of its slump and took the game over in a 5-2 win on March 25.

“We’ve played them enough. I think we understand them enough to know that they can win a game 6-1 on any given night against any team in the league,” McLellan said. “They have that ability.”

Logan Couture said: “They’re proud players over there. We can’t take them lightly.”