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At the Rink: Oilers at Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks have proven they can defeat some of the NHL's elite teams.

Now they'll try to end their habit of playing poorly against struggling teams when they face the Edmonton Oilers at SAP Center on Monday.

After reeling off consecutive victories against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks and raising their point total to 60, the surging Sharks play an Oilers team that has 35 points, second fewest in the NHL, but vowed not to take Edmonton lightly.

"These guys have so much skill up front that they can really beat anyone on any given night," Sharks center Logan Couture said after practice. "You've got to play the same way we've played our last couple games and worry about our game and go from there. Play in their end and force their guys to play in their own end like we've been doing the last couple nights. We'll give ourselves a chance to beat them."

Forward Tyler Kennedy will return to the Sharks' lineup and skate on the fourth line after missing two games with a lower-body injury. He'll replace Tye McGinn, who sustained an upper body injury Saturday against Chicago and is day-to-day.

"It's obviously exciting to get back with the guys," Kennedy said. "They're playing so well right now. It should be a good opportunity to come back and try to help them out too.

"Edmonton's a hard working team. We got to make sure we match their work ethic and play our game."

Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan will remain in the lineup, despite taking a hard hit to his head late in the first period Saturday from Blackhawks forward Byran Bickell. Hannan returned for the start of the second period, but he missed practice Sunday.

"I feel good," Hannan said. "I've had (concussions) in the past. He got me really good. Sometimes that's just the way it happens. Sometimes the littlest (hits) can give you the worst feeling, and sometimes those (big) ones end up just not. I got lucky."

The Oilers could be without first line left wing Taylor Hall (bruised leg) for the fourth straight game. Hall, who was hit in the leg by a puck during practice on Jan. 26, was on the ice for Edmonton's morning skate but did not take line rushes.

"Taylor Hall is a game-time decision for us tonight," Oilers interim coach Todd Nelson said. "We'll see how it is the rest of the day, and when we come to the rink tonight we'll make that decision."

Hall has said he wants to make sure he doesn't come back too quickly and suffer a setback as he did after a knee injury.

"I think that's what we're looking at right now, which direction to go with this," Nelson said. "So it will be a conversation we have tonight with our medical staff, Taylor and myself."

The Oilers have gone 1-2-0 without Hall and are coming off a 4-2 loss Saturday to the Calgary Flames. Edmonton took a 2-0 lead into the third period against the Flames.

"We don't want to let our foot off the pedal," Oilers forward Benoit Pouliot said. "We want to go hard. We want to score more goals. In the third we completely messed that one up and it cost us the game. Four goals in the third, that's a tough one, especially when you have the game going on our side."

Here are the projected lineups:


Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov - Derek Roy - Teddy Purcell

Luke Gazdic - Anton Lander - Matt Fraser

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer

Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Keith Aulie - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: none

Injured: Taylor Hall (bruised leg), Nikita Nikitin (shoulder), Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen)


Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto

Tomas Hertl - James Sheppard - Barclay Goodrow

John Scott - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Matt Tennyson

Matt Irwin - Scott Hannan

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Mirco Mueller, Daniil Tarasov

Injured: Raffi Torres (knee), Mike Brown (lower body), Tommy Wingels (left hand), Justin Braun (left hand), Tye McGinn (upper body)

Status report: Fasth will get the start after backing up Scrivens the past two games. Fasth has won his past two road starts. Scrivens has yet to win a game away from Rexall Place. ... Tarasov will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game since being recalled from Worcester of the American Hockey League and has yet to make his NHL debut. ... Niemi will make his fourth straight start.

Who's hot: Niemi had a 31-save shutout against the Blackhawks. He's won three straight games and has gone 5-0-1 over his past six. ... Thornton has a five-game point streak (two goals, five assists). ... Pavelski ranks second in the NHL in power play goals with 13, one behind the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin. ... Klefbom has three points (one goal, two assists) in has past three games. ... Eberle had a goal and an assist against Calgary. He leads the Oilers in points (31) and goals (13) and is tied with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins for the lead in assists (18).

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