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Sharks host Oilers in battle of struggling teams

by Matthew Mankiewich /
OILERS (13-21-7) at SHARKS (21-18-5)

TV -- SNET-West (HD); CSN-California (HD)

Last 10 -- Edmonton 1-7-2, San Jose 3-7-0

Season series -- The Sharks have never swept the Oilers in a season series, but they're in position to do just that after winning the first three games. They have bigger immediate concerns, though, in the form of both a five-game overall losing streak and five straight defeats at home.

Big story -- The Oilers' youth and inexperience is well-documented, as are their road struggles -- they are 0-4-1 in their last five games away from Rexall Place. Under normal circumstances, this should play nicely into the Sharks' efforts to protect their house. But the Sharks' struggles at home have dropped their into a last-place tie in the Pacific Division with the Kings, though they're only four points behind second-place Phoenix. In the logjammed Western Conference standings, they're only five points behind fourth-place Nashville.

Team scope

Oilers -- Almost 30 years ago, there was a young Edmonton winger who was moved to center and became an NHL legend. The move seemed to work out for the youngster, an Edmonton native named Mark Messier. Coach Tom Renney is trying the same thing with his young phenom, Taylor Hall, that Glen Sather did with Messier.

"Mark Messier? I don't like that comparison. That's a little bit much," said Hall to the Edmonton Journal.

The switch is a work in progress; Hall went 8-for-21 (38 percent) on faceoffs in his debut as a center in Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Dallas. But Renney indicated he's planning to keep the same line combos for San Jose, which includes Hall centering Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky.

"I'll contemplate that a little bit overnight here. Certainly I'll give it the due diligence, but there's a good chance we'll see the same guys," Renney told the Oilers' website after practice on Wednesday.

Sharks -- Saying that scoring has been a problem for the Sharks is an understatement -- they have only six goals in their five-game skid. With offense at such a premium, allowing four in the final 16:33 of a game puts up a big red flag in the other end of the ice as well. But that's what happened Tuesday as the Maple Leafs scored four times in a 4-2 win at HP Pavilion.

"We have been whining about our offense lately, but tonight it was our defense commitment that let us down," said coach Todd McLellan.

Who's hot -- Patrick Marleau had the Sharks' only two goals Tuesday night, while Joe Thornton picked up a pair of assists. … Hemsky, named to the All-Star team, has 9 points in his last eight games and 5 points in his last six since returning from injury.

Injury report -- Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff (knee) is skating with the team but does not have a set return date yet. Forward Andrew Cogliano injured his hand against the Stars on Tuesday, but should be good to go, according to Renney. Gilbert Brule (upper body) is day-to-day. Ryan Whitney (ankle) is still weeks away, while winger Jordan Eberle (ankle, appendectomy) is due back later this month. … San Jose rookie sniper Logan Couture hurt his knee in the Leafs game and his availability for Thursday remains uncertain. Forward Joe Pavelski (lower body) is skating and remains listed as day-to-day but has missed eight games so far.

Stat pack -- Dany Heatley may have only one goal in his last 13 contests, but he has 17 points in 15 career games against the Oilers, including 3 goals and 2 assists in three games this season. … The Oilers set a season high in shots on goal (41) and a season low in shots allowed (20) in the Dallas game, but the Stars still won. … The Sharks are 2-7-0 since Christmas and have scored only 16 goals in the nine games. … Thornton has a seven-game points streak against the Oilers. … The Oilers have scored three or fewer goals in each of their last 10 games. On the power play, they are 0-for-23 over their last eight games and 1-for-9 against the Sharks.

Puck drop -- "That's one thing I love about this team, that we play together and stick up for each other and battle for 60 minutes. At some point, this has to turn around." -- Oilers forward Ryan Jones on the team's continued solid effort despite their dismal record

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