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Struggling Sharks head to Edmonton

by Brian Compton
SHARKS (43-18-10) at OILERS (22-42-7)

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

Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Sharks can sweep with a win on Sunday; they most recently earned a 4-2 victory on Jan. 16 at HP Pavilion.

Big Story: With the Sharks struggling, talk is already beginning about the team's annual demise at this time of year. It is imperative that San Jose gets back on track heading into the playoffs and then, obviously, gets past the first round.

Team Scope:

Sharks: San Jose has dropped the first four of its six-game road trip that concludes on Tuesday at Minnesota. The Sharks fell to 0-4 on the trip with a 4-3 loss at Calgary on Friday night.

To make matters worse, they now have the Phoenix Coyotes on their tails. Phoenix earned a 5-4 shootout win against Chicago on Saturday and pulled within a point of first place in the Pacific Division.

"Phoenix is on a bit of hot streak right now, but we're still first in the Western Conference and if anything, we've got to look at it that way," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "We're obviously a good hockey team. We've put ourselves into a good position. We just have to get out of this and bounce back."

Oilers: This nightmare of a season is almost over for Edmonton, but at least it enjoyed Friday's 3-2 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings at Rexall Place. It was the first of a four-game homestand for the Oilers, who have the fewest points in the NHL (51).

Of course, the win didn't come easily. Edmonton saw its 2-1 lead disappear when Brian Rafalski scored with .02 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

"We did what a bottom-place team does: We backed off and gave them lots of room at the end," Oilers coach Pat Quinn said. "Dubnyk was really good, in the third period, especially. You never think a puck is going to go in with less than a second left. But we’ve had that happen to us earlier this season as well.

"But at the end of the night, it was thankfully a great result for him. I think everybody is really happy for him."

Who's Hot: Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle has two goals in his last three games. … Oilers forward Dustin Penner has seven points in his last five contests.

Injury Report: Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, while forward Jed Ortmeyer (lower body) is day-to-day. … Edmonton has four players out for the season -- Nikolai Khabibulin (back), Ales Hemsky (shoulder), Ladislav Smid (neck) and J.F. Jacques (back). Also, forward Ryan Stone (knee) is out indefinitely, while Ryan Jones (knee) is expected back in April. Patrick O'Sullivan (hand) and Sheldon Souray (hand) should return shortly.

Stat Pack: Prior to this skid, San Jose last lost four in a row in regulation from Feb. 28-March 7 of last season. The Sharks also went winless in five games earlier in the season from Dec. 3-12.

Puck Drop: "We're a little big fragile, we're a little bit on our heels, but it's those timely stops that's killing us. I have to work hard to make those saves for the guys." -- Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov

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