Sharks-Oilers: What to watch for


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.

Thornton leaves game vs Jets in final minute with apparent knee injury

Thornton leaves game vs Jets in final minute with apparent knee injury

The San Jose Sharks not only lost in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, but also lost their second-leading scorer to injury. 

Joe Thornton left the final minute of the game with an apparent injury to his right knee. With Jets forward Andrew Copp backchecking, Mikkel Boedker collided into Thornton's knee in front of the Sharks bench. 

Thornton took a stride on each leg as he skated gingerly to the bench, and did not return to the game. 

The 38-year-old underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee this summer. He missed the final three games of the regular season last year, but returned to play in San Jose's final four postseason games in a first round, six-game loss to the Edmonton Oilers. 

Thornton is second on the Sharks with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists), and has scored nine points in his last seven games. He is second among forwards in average ice time, and is playing 18:20 per night in his 20th NHL season. 

Sharks can't chase down Jets in topsy-turvy OT loss

Sharks can't chase down Jets in topsy-turvy OT loss


SAN JOSE -- Bryan Little scored his second goal of the game 18 seconds into overtime, lifting the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.

Joel Armia also scored twice and Mathieu Perreault had one goal to help the Jets win their third straight and fifth in the last seven. Connor Hellebuyck finished with 29 saves.

Joe PavelskiLogan CoutureChris Tierney and Timo Meier scored for San Jose, which lost for the second time in seven games. Aaron Dell had 18 saves.

Armia's second goal put the Jets ahead 4-3 with 8:22 remaining to play but Meier responded less than four minutes later for the Sharks. Marc-Edouard Vlasic's shot was blocked by Dustin Byfuglien, and Meier won the battle to the puck and slipped it past Hellebuyck.

The Jets, who scored a goal apiece in each of its last four games, found the net three times in the first 12 minutes.

Perreault set the tone, scoring 18 seconds into the game with an assist from Nikolaj Ehlers.

Andrew Copp set up Armia's first goal with a terrific pass from the blue line less than five minutes into the game.

Little scored on a power play, redirecting Tyler Myers shot past Dell to make it 3-0 with just over just over eight minutes left in the opening period.

A heads up play from Pavelski put the Sharks on the scoreboard in the final minute of the first. Brenden Dillon's shot bounced hard off Hellebuyck's pads and Pavelski got to the rebound and fired in from 20 feet away.

The Sharks tied the score with two goals within a four-minute stretch of the second period.

Couture was trying to pass the puck midway through the period and flared on it. The puck floated between a pair of Jets' defenders as Couture spun around 360 degrees and found it sitting on open ice. He struck quickly, before the puck was located by anyone else.

Tierney's power-play goal came after a sharp left-to-right pass across the ice by Joe Thornton.

NOTES: The Jets improved to 23-1-4 when scoring first and 17-1-1 when leading after the first period. ... Tierney recorded his career-high 12th goal of the season. ... Perreault has three goals in his last four games. ... Pavelski has nine points in his last eight games. ... Thornton has nine points in his last seven games.


Jets: At the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.

Sharks: Host the New York Rangers on Thursday.