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First-place Sharks visit struggling Oilers

Jan 23, 2012 - 3:56 PM
(Sports Network) - The Pacific Division-leading Sharks have lost consecutive games for the first time this month. San Jose will try to avoid matching its longest skid of the season this evening as they visit the Edmonton Oilers.

San Jose is 7-3-1 so far in January, but has dropped back-to-back games in regulation to Ottawa and Vancouver. After getting bested by three goals versus the Senators, the Sharks suffered a 4-3 loss to the Canucks on Saturday.

Logan Couture lit the lamp twice and Dan Boyle also scored in the Sharks' third loss in four games. They'll try to avoid dropping three in a row for the third time this season and first since Dec. 10-13.

Antti Niemi stopped 26 shot in the loss.

"We didn't play very well, well enough to win. We had our chances, good comeback there, scored a late goal to tie it up in the third [but] two shifts later they score," Couture said. "We need points right now and that just wasn't good enough tonight."

San Jose owns a one-point lead over Los Angeles for the top spot in the Pacific Division, while Edmonton is 14th out of 15 teams in the West with 38 points. The Oilers have lost three straight and eight of their past nine games, falling 6-2 to the visiting Flames on Saturday.

Ryan Smyth contributed a goal and an assist and Andy Sutton scored. Nikolai Khabibulin was tagged for four goals -- including three in the first -- on just 16 shots and backup Devan Dubnyk gave up one goal on six shots in relief in the third period.

"We tried, but we didn't try very smart," Oilers head coach Tom Renney said of his team's effort. "Calgary stayed disciplined and stayed within their structure and we needed to match that and play the way we need to play to have success. We didn't do that."

Renney is hoping to have defenseman Ryan Whitney in the lineup either tonight or Tuesday in Vancouver. Whitney hasn't played since Dec. 22 due to a right ankle issue. Edmonton, though, remains without Cam Barker, Tom Gilbert and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The Sharks logged a 3-2 home win over the Oilers in the first of four meetings this year on Dec. 17. Patrick Marleau had the game-winner in the third period and Niemi came up with 23 saves.

Khabibulin stopped 34 shots in the loss, Edmonton's 10th in the past 12 encounters overall in this series. The Oilers have also lost two straight and seven of nine at home to the Sharks.