Sharks aim to end struggles in clash with Oilers

( - The suddenly-struggling San Jose Sharks hope to get back on track Tuesday when they welcome the lowly Edmonton Oilers for a battle at SAP Center.

The Sharks were one of the NHL's hottest teams not that long ago, collecting 11 wins during a 14-game stretch (11-2-1) from Feb. 5-March 20. However, San Jose has lost four of five games (1-2-2) since and ended the month of March with consecutive regulation losses.

Despite its recent slide, San Jose is still in the thick of the Pacific Division title race. The Sharks, who have already locked up a playoff spot, are three points behind Anaheim for the division title, with the Ducks holding a game in hand.

Anaheim is idle Tuesday before hosting the Oilers on Wednesday.

The Sharks hope to get back on track Tuesday against Edmonton, which is last in the West and officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Oilers have missed the postseason in eight straight years since making a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.

San Jose has won three of four against the Oilers this season and has claimed seven of eight overall in the series. Edmonton, which is 12-20-6 on the road this season, has lost in seven of its past nine trips to San Jose.

After losing at home to Winnipeg on Thursday, the Sharks were dealt a second straight regulation defeat in Saturday's road game against Colorado. John Mitchell recorded the eventual game winner in the second period for the Avalanche and Semyon Varlamov stopped a season-high 47 shots to frustrate the Sharks in the 3-2 loss.

San Jose went 1-for-4 on the power play, but failed to convert on two chances with the man advantage during a scoreless third period. The Sharks fired 20 shots at Varlamov over the final 20 minutes, but couldn't beat the Russian netminder for the equalizer.

Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle tallied for the Sharks, with Alex Stalock making only 19 saves in defeat.

"We had our chances. Our PK was winning a lot of games early, but we can't give up a lot of penalties, especially against them," offered Pavelski. "They were committed tonight, but so were we. Our guys did better and better as the game went on, but it wasn't enough."

Antti Niemi expects to get the start in net for San Jose tonight. The Finnish backstop is 8-1-1 with a 2.24 goals against average in 10 career games against Edmonton.

The Sharks are beginning a three-game homestand on Tuesday and boast a 26-6-5 record at SAP Center this season.

The Oilers have dropped four of their last five games and are coming off Sunday's 5-0 blowout loss against the visiting New York Rangers. Cam Talbot stopped 26 shots to blank Edmonton, while Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash each posted two goals for the Rangers.

Ben Scrivens allowed all five goals for the Oilers, who surrendered five or more goals for the third time in four outings.

"We have to find a way to manufacture some offense and it's something that we're going to have to look into this summer as we add and subtract," Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said.

Edmonton is beginning a three-game road trip on Tuesday before capping its season with four straight at Rexall Place.