The free-falling San Jose Sharks are on the verge of sliding out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Perhaps the return of their head coach can stabilize things.
Todd McLellan is expected to be on the bench for the Sharks this evening when they try to avoid a third straight loss in a matchup with the Edmonton Oilers.
San Jose's bench boss has missed the past three games because of concussion- like symptoms suffered when he was accidentally hit on the head by a stick versus Minnesota on Feb. 26. That has left him unable to help his club shake out of its current funk, which features two straight losses and setbacks in eight of 10.
The Sharks' slide continued on Saturday in a 3-1 loss to the Blues. San Jose was held to just 19 shots on net and went 0-for-3 on the power play.
"It didn't fully portray our lack of zone time and scoring chances," San Jose assistant coach Matt Shaw said. "Their level of hockey was dramatically better than ours and our execution was poor."
Torrey Mitchell scored the lone goal and Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the Sharks, who now trail the Stars and Coyotes by two points for first place in the Pacific Division and sit eighth overall in the Western Conference. San Jose is only one point up on Los Angeles and Colorado for that final playoff berth.
The Sharks have been held to just two goals over a four-game homestand that ends tonight.
San Jose has won four of six and 10 of its past 13 meetings with Edmonton, but did drop a 2-1 shootout decision on the road in the most recent encounter on Jan. 23. Taylor Hall had the winner for the Oilers, beating backup Sharks netminder Thomas Greiss in the fourth round.
Edmonton has lost five of its past six in San Jose and had a three-game road winning streak snapped with last night's 4-2 loss in Anaheim.
The Oilers got a late goal from Shawn Horcoff in the second period -- a frame in which they totaled a season-high 22 shots on net -- and Jordan Eberle made it a one-goal game on his power-play tally with 1:46 to play. However, the Ducks found the empty net to seal the game and hand the Oilers their third straight loss.
"Given the year and given where we are at, we feel like we're a better team than where we are. We just don't play games the smart way," said Horcoff. "Especially games like now, where you come back, we had them on their heels in the third, you just can't give them easy offense to get their momentum back and we did exactly that.
Nikolai Khabibulin turned aside 26-of-29 shots in the loss.