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SAN JOSE The Sharks will complete a busy stretch of seven games in 11 days on Saturday night when they host the Edmonton Oilers at HP Pavilion.
A dormant offense finally erupted in Thursdays 5-4 come-from-behind win against Colorado with three goals in the third period. Now, it will be up to the Sharks to carry the momentum gained from that final 20 minutes into tonights matchup with struggling Edmonton.
Its something to build off for us, said Torrey Mitchell. We didnt get the start we wanted to, but it was obviously positive coming out in the third like that.
"I think we need to carry over that type of play; that dire need to finish and win games, said Andrew Desjardins.
Coach Todd McLellan is also hopeful that the team is starting to regain its confidence, one player at a time.
For me, confidence is feeling good about yourself first, about the team and the game that youre playing. We dont have enough players that can honestly say that right now, said McLellan. Were gaining more back. I would say that were coming out of it. As we build on that a little bit more we should feel better about ourselves, and our game should improve.
The Sharks, who had an optional morning skate on Saturday, will be looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since Nov. 20-23, as they are 3-5-2 in their last 10.
First look at Oilers: Edmonton is just 2-6-1 in its last nine games, including four regulation losses in its last five games. Still, the Oilers have some of the games top young talents in players like rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.
Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, leads Edmonton with 33 points (13g, 20a), tying him for 14th in the NHL in scoring.
The Sharks have had a bit of trouble with teams that feature speedy, shifty forwards like the Oilers possess. Colorados Matt Duchesne was the Avalanches best player in the two games this week, for example.
Smaller players, you need to close on them quick and not give them space to spin and turn guys like Duchesne and Brian Gionta on Montreal, said Mitchell. They are really dangerous. Bigger bodies tend to slow the play down a little bit and those guys are fast and dynamic.
Keeping the puck out of the net has been a problem for Edmonton, though, after it was a strength early on. The Oilers have allowed 61 goals in their last 17 games, after allowing just 23 through their first 14.
The Sharks visit Rexall Place on Jan. 23.
Win the special teams battle: Its become a theme over the last two weeks, but the Sharks' failure to win the special teams battle has been costing them points in the standings.
In the last seven games, San Jose has just two power play goals (2-for-21). Over that same stretch, the Sharks have killed off just 13 of 21 opponent man advantages.
McLellan notes that the Sharks last four losses have come by a margin of just one goal, making their special teams woes all the more glaring.
Your power play or penalty kill in that situation can make a huge, huge difference, and it didnt in those games, he said. Thats the difference between winning and losing. The penalty kill is a huge, huge factor in our games right now.
The Sharks havent won outright the special teams battle since Nov. 23, when they scored one power play goal against Chicago and killed off all four Blackhawks power plays in a 1-0 win.
Niemi again: Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (12-6-3, 2.41 GAA, .916 SP) will make his 11th start in the last 12 games when he plays against the Oilers tonight.
McLellan isnt worried about his goaltenders heavy workload.
Our schedule has been fairly friendly when you look at it compared to some other teams, other than this stretch of seven in 11. He didnt have training camp and an early start to the season, said the coach, referring to Niemi's September surgery to remove a cyst on his leg.
At this point in the season, Im not worried about his workload one bit. In fact, I think much like last year, hes getting better as we play him more.
Nikolai Khabibulin (10-6-3, 1.95 GAA, .933 SP) is expected to be in net for the Oilers after missing the last two games.
In 34 career appearances against the Sharks, the 39-year-old is 17-11-2-2 with a 2.48 goals-against average.
Lines the same: The Sharks will keep their lines the same as they were in Thursdays win over Colorado. That is, Joe Thornton will play with Torrey Mitchell and Joe Pavelski; Logan Couture will skate with Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau; while Michal Handzus will center Marty Havlat and Jamie McGinn. The fourth line remains the same, as well.
Mitchell spoke about his new linemates on Saturday morning.
Obviously those two guys Im with are a little more dynamic offensively. Its more of an opportunity to get points, but no different from my mindset, he said.
Eleven Sharks tallied at least one point on Thursday.
Odds and ends: The Sharks lead the NHL in shots per game (34.1) while the Oilers are 29th in the league (26.2). Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer remain on injured reserve. Edmontons Taylor Hall returned from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for three weeks on Thursday in Phoenix, a 4-2 loss for the Oilers.