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Just three games into the season and the San Jose Sharks may have revenge on their minds.
San Jose will try to open the regular season with four straight wins for the first time in franchise history Thursday when it meets the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place in a rematch of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Sharks lost to Nashville to begin the opening round of the playoffs before winning the next four games to advance. Facing the Oilers, San Jose took the first two games by identical 2-1 scores before dropping four straight.
"It's always tough to lose especially when you have the series lead," said forward Jonathan Cheechoo, who led the league last season with 56 goals, but managed only two in the series against the Oilers.
Vesa Toskala, who inherited the starting job while Evgeni Nabokov battled injuries, allowed one goal in each of the two wins over the Oilers, but 16 in the four losses. With Toskala off to a strong start and Nabokov healthy again, San Jose (3-0-0) has the luxury of two goaltenders who could be clear-cut starters.
Toskala made 29 saves in a 4-1 win Tuesday over Calgary and set a franchise record by winning his ninth straight start dating back to last season.
"Every time I get in there, my goal is to relax, enjoy it, and give my team a chance to win. That's all I can control," Toskala said.
Three nights earlier, Nabokov stopped 26 shots en route to his 28th career shutout in a 2-0 win over the New York Islanders.
"I've always said it's a great problem to have," general manager Doug Wilson said about the Sharks' goaltending. "We're just zeroed in on not having too many distractions. They're very professional, and we'll go from there. We have such great depth, which very few teams have."
Cheechoo, though, has yet to score a goal this season and has just one in 12 regular-season games lifetime versus Edmonton (1-1-0).
This Oilers team, though, is much different than the one that lost in seven games to Carolina in the Stanley Cup finals. Defenseman Chris Pronger was traded to Anaheim, and forwards Michael Peca and Sergei Samsonov signed with Toronto and Montreal, respectively, as free agents.
Edmonton has managed just four goals so far and is tied with Calgary for the fewest scored in the Western Conference. The Oilers split a home-and-home series with the Flames to start the season, posting a 3-1 win at home Oct. 5 before dropping a 2-1 decision Saturday in Calgary.
Joffrey Lupul, acquired from Anaheim for Pronger, scored the lone goal in the loss.
Ryan Smyth, the longest-tenured player on Edmonton, needs three points to reach 500 for his career. Selected sixth overall in 1994, Smyth has 13 goals and 13 assists in 39 games against San Jose.