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Pavelski, Sharks host Oilers

by Brian Hunter

OILERS (13-24-5) at SHARKS (25-9-6)


Last 10: Edmonton 2-6-2; San Jose 6-3-1

Season series: This is the second of five games between the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks. Patrick Marleau scored one goal and set up another in a 3-1 San Jose win in Edmonton on Nov. 15.

Big story: Players to watch Thursday include Sharks forward Joe Pavelski and Oilers forward Nail Yakupov. The former was named to the U.S. Olympic team Wednesday, while the latter returns to the lineup in what could be an enhanced role.

Team Scope:

Oilers: Yakupov has been an enigma in his sophomore season in Edmonton. Failing to build off a dynamite rookie year, he has six goals and 14 points and is minus-25 in 39 games, found himself a healthy scratch on numerous occasions, including a 4-3 overtime loss Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes, and played fewer than 10 minutes in each of his past four games.

Coach Dallas Eakins had him practicing on the second line Wednesday with Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner, however, and indicated the Oilers will continue to work to bring out the best in the talented 20-year-old.

"We want him to play the system and the way we're trying to get our whole group to play. And that's his challenge," Eakins said. "He fully understands it. And he fully understands that there's a little bit of heat on him to play and play well. He's with two good players, two experienced players. He's going to get some looks on one of our power plays where we've put him right back to where he's been before."

Sharks: Pavelski, tied for second on San Jose in scoring with 37 points, will represent his country for the second time at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He had three assists in six games in the 2010 Vancouver Games, when the U.S. came within a goal of winning the gold medal.

Since then, Pavelski has continued to blossom as a player. He recorded his first 30-goal season in 2011-12, and he's on pace to do it again with 16 goals in 40 games going into Thursday. That includes three goals and three assists during an active five-game point streak.

"You know teams won't take you lightly this time around," Pavelski told San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak upon his Olympic selection. "It is one of those times where you expect to win now."

Who's hot: Oilers left wing Taylor Hall has two goals and six assists his past four games, and David Perron has three goals and two assists over the same span. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has goals in consecutive games. … Bracken Kearns, who scored his first NHL goal Sunday at the age of 32, scored in a second consecutive game Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. Logan Couture also scored in the 6-3 loss and has goals in two straight.

Injury report: Edmonton forwards Mark Arcobello (ribs) and Ryan Jones (head) are ready to return, but they won't play Thursday. Defensemen Corey Potter (groin) and Philip Larsen (illness) are also out. … San Jose forward Tommy Wingels (upper body) is day-to-day. Forwards Raffi Torres (knee), Adam Burish (lower body), Tomas Hertl (knee) and Marty Havlat (lower body) are on injured reserve.

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