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Sharks aim to rebound against Oilers

by Davis Harper
SHARKS (33-25-9) at OILERS (26-35-7)


Last 10: San Jose 2-6-2; Edmonton 4-5-1.

Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season. Although San Jose is 10-2-0 in the previous 12 meetings, Edmonton holds a 2-1 edge in the season series, with both wins coming in shootouts. The Oilers prevailed this past Tuesday by a score of 3-2 on Sam Gagner's shootout tally.

Big Story: San Jose -- a team hemorrhaging points as it continues a slide down the Western Conference -- will look to win for the first time in March. Edmonton has been little better, with its only win in six games coming in the shootout win against the Sharks. Despite their struggles, the Sharks are just a point out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Sharks: It's been a tough stretch for the San Jose, much of it due to its anemic offense. The Sharks have scored three goals or fewer in 12 straight games, an ineptitude that has left them 2-8-3 since Feb. 16.  And since beating Philadelphia, 1-0, on Feb. 28, the Sharks have lost five in a row -- including two shutouts. The second of those came in Saturday's 3-0 defeat at the hands of Phoenix. The Sharks mustered 42 shots, but Mike Smith stood tall against them all. The struggle is not lost on those in the locker room.

"It seems to be a similar pattern here," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We had several grade-A chances, but didn't put the puck away."

Oilers: Since winning three of four late in February and looking very much like a team on the rise, Edmonton has dropped five of six. In a 3-2 shootout loss to Colorado on Saturday, the Oilers came close to snapping the streak when Taylor Hall erased a 2-1 lead with a goal 15:17 into the third period. Edmonton had the better of chances in the final minutes and overtime, but Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller buried Edmonton in the shootout.

"It was good to at least salvage a point,” Hall said. "You can definitely tell these teams are in a playoff race. They know their life depends on every point that they get. When we play these teams, we have to be extra motivated."

Who's Hot: While Devan Dubnyk has struggled recently, he is 3-0-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average in three careers meetings with the Sharks. He saved 28 shots in last Tuesday's game, but coach Tom Renney has preferred Nikolai Khabibulin in the last two games.

Injury Report: Edmonton's Ben Eager is questionable for Monday's game with flu-like symptoms. … In San Jose, Martin Havlat will miss 6-8 weeks with a hamstring injury.

Stat Pack: On top of their full-strength attacking slump, San Jose has squandered all 13 power-play chances during its March skid. If Khabibulin gets the start again, that could come to an end Monday. He is 3-2 with a 3.33 GAA in six games since Feb. 15.
Puck Drop: After Saturday's loss, captain Shawn Horcoff insisted his team would salvage what they could from the season.

"We're a proud team and we want to finish strong," Horcoff said. "Listen, you have to find motivation this time of year when you're in the situation we are (in). You have to find ways to motivate yourself and the team, otherwise it can get pretty ugly, pretty quick. We've been through that before and we're not going to let it happen again."

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