Home is Oilers’ only hope

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) – The beleaguered Edmonton Oilers returned home Tuesday with their surprising playoff run in danger of coming to an abrupt end.

Coach Craig MacTavish stepped off the jet on to the tarmac on a gray day at the Edmonton International Airport and said that his team’s 0-2 deficit to the San Jose Sharks isn’t insurmountable.

“I really feel like home ice advantage is going to be a big advantage in a series like this, one that has been as physical as this one’s been,” he said. “The hometown fans get behind (the players) and provide a lot of energy and a lot of adrenalin for the players to finish their checks. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”

The Oilers know they need a win Wednesday to prevent the Sharks from taking a stranglehold in the series.

The Sharks, with seven rookies in their lineup along with veteran Ville Nieminen, have pounded the Oilers at every turn and have shut down Edmonton’s scoring attack, winning two 2-1 games.

The Oilers, after being outhit 44-25 in game one, matched San Jose’s toughness in game two, edging them 24-23 in the hit department. But the Oilers have been outshot 68-42 and their top scorers – Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky – have a combined nine shots on net over 120 minutes. Oilers winger Jarret Stoll says they need to get the puck into the Sharks’ zone and keep it there to get more quality shots on goalie Vesa Toskala.

“We want to sustain a little bit more pressure down in their zone and create more cycle chances, just supporting each other better in the offensive zone,” he said. “I don’t think you can count too many times where we had a long sustained amount of pressure in their zone.”

Winger Ethan Moreau said the Oilers are getting used to playing a team that can match them stride for stride and hit for hit.

“Sometimes it’s like looking in the mirror against them. They skate really well, they’re physical, they work hard and they compete. And that’s what we do,” he said.

MacTavish said they haven’t had a lot of lucky bounces around the net but need to test Toskala more often.

“He (Toskala) has been solid. It’s just a case of getting the location of shots in different spots,” MacTavish said.

The Oilers have been able to keep the games tight in large part to the play of goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

The Sharks are proving tough to contain. With Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger on the ice for about half of each game to nullify San Jose high-scoring duo of Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, the second line of Patrick Marleau and rookies Steve Bernier and Milan Michalek have provided offense.

The Oilers made it to the second round after a shocking first-round upset of the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings.

AP-ES-05-09-06 1905EDT

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