The last time the San Jose Sharks saw the Edmonton Oilers, they were capping a high-scoring seven-game winning streak to begin the season.
Plenty has changed since.
With both teams lurking near the edge of the postseason picture, San Jose looks to avoid a sixth consecutive road loss Wednesday night versus surging Edmonton, which is seeking its first playoff appearance in seven seasons.
The Sharks began 2013 on a roll, beating the Oilers twice while outscoring opponents 27-12 in non-shootout goals.
Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture each had two goals and an assist, while captain Joe Thornton added three assists in a 6-3 win at Edmonton on Jan. 22. Couture scored again in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Oilers on Jan. 31 to conclude the winning streak.
San Jose (12-10-6), though, proceeded to go 0-4-3 over its next seven and has scored 36 non-shootout goals in 21 games since last defeating the Oilers.
It has lost six of seven, including 5-3 to Anaheim on Monday in its second stop on a five-game road trip. The Sharks scored more than twice away from home for the first time since the first meeting with Edmonton.
"Effort was better, results are the same," coach Todd McLellan said. "But (effort) doesn't get us anything. That doesn't put points in the bank, that doesn't help us climb the standings. That's a moral victory in the locker room. If we're counting on that, then so be it.
"Tomorrow when we wake up, it's still going to be a loss and we're going to be two points behind everybody else."
While San Jose expected to be amongst the Western Conference leaders, the Oilers (11-11-6) simply are happy to be involved in the tight playoff race. They improved to 3-0-1 over their last four following Sunday's 3-2 win over Nashville, rebounding after a disappointing 0-4-1 stretch as Jordan Eberle ended a 10-game goal drought and added an assist.
"When you get confidence it just builds and builds and builds," Eberle said. "It's fun right now. ... I haven't been in this situation before. It's exciting to be in the locker room when every game and every period means so much. It's great to be a part of that."
Calgary, though, is in 14th place and just two points behind the Oilers, making for an exciting finish to the lockout-shortened season. Edmonton hasn't been to the playoffs since a seven-game loss to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup final.
"It's crazy how tight it is," said Devan Dubnyk, who made 29 saves Sunday and has a 1.64 goals-against average over his last three starts. "We'd like to be in the playoffs right now but it's a great situation compared to years before at this time of year and having every single game be meaningful.
"We need to continue to work to make sure that's the case right through to the end of the season and obviously to playoffs."
San Jose has expressed similar thoughts.
"We still have to clean up a lot of stuff," Marleau said. "We're going to try and focus on the positives. I think guys are seeing what it's going to take to win games and we need to do it more consistently."
Antti Niemi is 5-0-1 with a 2.27 GAA lifetime versus the Oilers, but he has a 3.71 GAA in his last six starts.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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