Programming note: Flames-Sharks coverage starts tonight at 5:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE - The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers still occupy the bottom two rungs on the Western Conference ladder. But, they’ll be in two completely states of mind when they each host the Sharks this week.
The Flames are coming off of an 8-1 drubbing of the Oilers on Saturday. They’ve won four of their last six games, beginning with a surprising 7-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on March 12. The Sharks will make their final appearance at the Saddledome on Monday.
“They’re a team that works extremely hard and is very competitive, and have really embraced that identity of having a lot of pride down the stretch,” Todd McLellan said. “It won’t be an easy task.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “Calgary won 8-1 [Saturday] night, so they’re playing well. They’re playing loose. They want to make it tough on teams trying to make the playoffs and fight for positioning.”
The Oilers, meanwhile, are a train wreck. Not only did they get dismantled by their Alberta rivals over the weekend, a couple of incidents not related to the game added to the catastrophe, including another frustrated fan throwing his sweater on the ice surface and Taylor Hall accidently dousing his coach with an exploding water bottle.
If the Oilers have anything going for them against the Sharks on Tuesday night, it’s that San Jose will be playing in the second of a back-to-back, while Edmonton should be well rested.
They can also look back on the last time the Sharks were in town, when Ben Scrivens played perhaps the best game any NHL goaltender has played this season, when he made 59 saves in a 3-0 shutout on Jan. 29.
"I thought we played a solid game in Edmonton and got beat by a goaltender that was just on fire," McLellan said.
The Sharks have a tenuous hold on first place in the Pacific Division, just one point ahead of Anaheim. The Ducks have one game in hand, though, and own the tiebreaker of more regulation/overtime wins.
San Jose will have a chance to increase that lead this week, as the Ducks don’t play again until Wednesday. If that is to happen, the results will have to be better than they were last time in Alberta, when the shutout loss to the Oilers was followed by a 4-1 defeat in Calgary the next night, Jan. 30.
They’ve already lost to some of the bottom-dwelling teams this season, too. Since the Olympic break, the Sharks have just two regulation losses (9-2-2), and both came to the teams with the lowest point totals in Buffalo on Feb. 28 and vs. Florida last Tuesday.
“The teams like that, we’ve struggled with this season, for whatever reason,” Patrick Marleau said. “It would be a good time to change that and play some good hockey and get some wins.”
McLellan knows his team can’t take the Flames or Oilers lightly.
“One feels good about their game, the other one doesn’t. They are both dangerous any way we look at it. We can’t be concerned about how they feel or what they’re thinking. We have a game to play, and we’ve got to play it well.”