Oilers-Sharks Preview

The Associated Press

After their worst defensive effort of the season, the San Jose Sharks are hoping to begin 2014 better than they finished 2013.

That opportunity will come Thursday night at home against an Edmonton Oilers team the Sharks have beaten five straight times.

The Sharks (25-9-6) allowed a season-high six goals Tuesday in a 6-3 loss at Anaheim to settle for a split in a home-and-home series with their Pacific Division rivals. They had won four straight before the Ducks peppered them with 25 second-period shots after what coach Todd McLellan deemed a good start.

"We were on our toes, winning the races," McLellan said. "Where did it go in the second? I guess that's the big question we have to ask our group. What do you do? What do you bring to the team? Are you an energy guy? Do you hit, block shots, or just take up space?

"We have got some guys ... that need to perform a little bit better."

Antti Niemi allowed five goals before being replaced early in the third period by Alex Stalock, but the Sharks' No. 1 goaltender will likely be back in net since he is 6-0-1 in his career against Edmonton.

Center Logan Couture scored in the second period to tie the game at 2-all, but the Ducks followed with four straight goals. Couture has goals in consecutive games to go along with a seven-game point streak against Edmonton.

"You obviously want to keep that momentum going, but that second period we were just caught staring most of the period, and it definitely cost us," captain Joe Thornton told the Sharks' official website. "What can I say? That second period killed us.

"We're usually good with dealing with pressure. We just weren't getting pucks out. I think we had it on our stick a couple times; we just couldn't get pucks out. They're a good team, and they make you pay if you don't get the puck out."

If the Oilers (13-24-5) are going to get back on track after consecutive overtime losses, they'll have to do it in a building that's yielded five points to visiting teams. The Sharks are 14-1-3 at home while the Oilers have dropped five of six on the road.

The Oilers let a two-goal lead slip away Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime loss at Phoenix.

Taylor Hall had three assists to give him eight points in the last four games, a 2-0-2 stretch for the Oilers.

"Hall was a danger tonight every time he stepped on the ice," coach Dallas Eakins told the Oilers' official website.

Eakins was also pleased with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has scored in back-to-back games.

Ilya Bryzgalov made 41 saves as the Oilers were outshot 45-25. He's faced 83 shots in the last two games.

"You don't want to put him in a situation where he has to be busy like that," captain Andrew Ference said. "He gave us a chance. That's what good goaltenders do."

The Sharks earned a 3-1 win in Edmonton on Nov. 15 behind Stalock's 30 saves.

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