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Sharks know there's no room for letdown vs. Oilers

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- No one has to tell center Logan Couture that the San Jose Sharks can't afford a letdown Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers if they hope to win the Pacific Division.

Couture watched on television Monday night as the first-place Anaheim Ducks rallied from a 4-0 hole to beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-4 in overtime. The Ducks moved three points ahead of the Sharks and have a game in hand. They also own a significant edge in non-shootout wins, the No. 1 tiebreaker once the regular season ends.

With six games left to play, the Sharks appear to be in must-win territory when it comes to winning the Pacific Division and avoiding a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Yeah, I'd say if you look at the standings and look at their games left," Couture said after the Sharks' morning skate. "Six wins gives us 12 points. They're three points ahead of us. We pretty much would have to win out to pass them."

Winnipeg looked well on its way to handing Anaheim a stunning loss that would have boosted San Jose's chances to win the Pacific.

"My dad's in town, so I was spending the night with him on the couch. We were watching the game," Couture said. "A hell of a comeback by Anaheim. Pretty entertaining game to watch.

"You hate to say you're cheering against teams or cheering for teams, but when it was 4-0 I thought the game might have been over."

With just 61 points, Edmonton ranks 29th in the NHL, but the Sharks have made a habit of losing to teams that won't make the playoffs. Since Feb. 28, they've lost to the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Jets in regulation, to the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime and to the Calgary Flames in a shootout.

"We've learned some lessons, or we've been taught some lessons," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Some of the teams that will not make the playoffs, we haven't had much success on some nights. But we've played [the Oilers] enough. I think we understand them enough to know that they can win a game 6-1 on any given night against any team in the League. They have that ability."

The Oilers have been hit by a rash of injuries, leaving them without defenseman Andrew Ference and forwards Ryan Jones, Nail Yakupov, Jesse Joensuu and Luke Gazdic, who will have shoulder surgery.

With only 11 healthy forwards, the Oilers will use defenseman Philip Larsen again as a right wing on the fourth line. Will Acton, who was called up from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League, will center the fourth line.

"No one's going to feel sorry for us, that's for sure," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "We've got numerous injuries, and when you look at the names on the backs, it's certainly not a lot of experience. … We've got guys playing out of position, guys that are going to play more minutes than they normally would, but with injuries come opportunity, and now it's time for players who have said, 'I can play more for you, I need a chance,' well, here it is. Let's see what you can do."

Here are the projected lineups for San Jose and Edmonton:


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto

Marty Havlat - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels

Tyler Kennedy- Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Scott Hannan, Raffi Torres

Injured: Tomas Hertl (knee), Adam Burish (hand)


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Anton Lander - Sam Gagner - David Perron

Ryan Smyth - Boyd Gordon - Tyler Pitlick

Matt Hendricks - Will Acton - Philip Larsen

Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz

Martin Marincin - Jeff Petry

Mark Fraser - Anton Belov

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Injured: Ryan Jones (knee), Nail Yakupov (ankle), Jesse Joensuu (ankle), Andrew Ference (chest), Luke Gazdic (shoulder)

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