Oilers-Sharks Preview

Nobody can deny the success Todd McLellan had in seven seasons as coach of the San Jose Sharks.

Unfortunately for him, the majority of it came in the regular season.

McLellan returns to San Jose for the first time as coach of the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night hoping his team can end a six-game road skid.

The Sharks were a playoff team in each of McLellan's first six seasons, won three Pacific Division titles and advanced to the Western Conference finals twice. McLellan compiled a 311-163-66 mark with San Jose, but his 30-32 postseason record was disappointing for a franchise that always had Stanley Cup aspirations.

After the Sharks finished with 89 points last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03, McLellan and the team agreed to mutually part ways.

However, he wasn't out of work long as he was hired in May by an Oilers team that hasn't been to the playoffs since reaching the Cup finals in 2006.

McLellan already has a win against his old team, 4-3 in overtime Dec. 9.

"I think the first time back is a little bit different but we've got work to do," he told the Oilers' official website. "We're playing a team that's on fire right now. They're playing really well. Like most nights, we'll have our work cut out for us."

The victory over the Sharks was part of a six-game win streak for the Oilers, but they've gone 3-8-2 since to sink to the bottom of the conference.

Edmonton's struggles continued with a 4-3 overtime loss at Arizona on Tuesday, dropping to 0-4-2 in the past six road games.

"It's just tough to swallow because when you think we play well and the result is obviously not what you want, it's frustrating,'' forward Jordan Eberle said.

Eberle has been a bright spot with two goals and seven points in five games.

Anders Nilsson hasn't been nearly as helpful. He lost his fourth straight start Tuesday with a 4.29 goals-against average in that span.

Cam Talbot has been much better lately, posting a 1.78 GAA in his last five starts.

The Oilers (17-23-4) are expected to get forward Nail Yakupov back after he missed 22 games with an ankle injury. Yakupov has two goals and 12 points in 22 games.

Even with a league-low six wins on home ice, the Sharks (21-18-2) are third in the Pacific and would be a playoff team if the season ended today. Still, San Jose's 6-12-0 home record is one of the biggest curiosities in the first half and has just about offset its 15-6-2 road mark which ranks among the NHL's best.

That road success continued with wins over Calgary and Winnipeg on back-to-back nights. The Sharks held on for a 5-4 victory over the Flames on Monday before scoring one power-play goal and another short-handed in Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Jets, their third in a four-night span.

"It's two different records almost," Alex Stalock, who made 21 saves Tuesday, told the team's official website. "We've got to figure out the (record) at home. But we like the way we've been playing the past four games. We really do."

Brent Burns has been excellent those four games and beyond that with six goals and six assists during a career-high eight-game point streak. He ranks second among all defensemen with 40 points.

The Sharks are 10-1-2 in their last 13 home games against the Oilers.


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