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Atlanta
Thrashers
35-41-6
San Jose
Sharks
53-18-11

23 SOG
31 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
ATL
SJS
game preview

Thrashers-Sharks Preview

Saturday, 02.21.2009 / 1:00 PM

Associated Press

Although they are one of the Eastern Conference's worst teams, the Atlanta Thrashers have picked up points in each of their last five road games and have earned five points on their longest trip of the season.

Keeping that run of road success going Saturday might prove to be difficult.

In Saturday's finale of a four-game trip, the Thrashers face the West's top team in the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion - the NHL's toughest venue and a place where Atlanta has never won.

Despite sitting in last place in the Southeast Division, Atlanta (21-32-6) is 4-0-1 in its last five away from home and 2-0-1 on this trip. The Thrashers just missed another road win Thursday night at Phoenix, going into the eighth shootout round before falling 4-3.

"It was a good point," captain Ilya Kovalchuk said. "It's been a frustrating season, but we're trying to build something for next year."

The Thrashers will be making their first trip to San Jose since Dec. 6, 2005. They're 0-4-0 with one tie all-time at HP Pavilion, and will be facing a Sharks team that boasts a league-best 25-2-3 home record.

Atlanta has beaten San Jose once in 10 all-time meetings, 3-2 in overtime Nov. 13, 2002.

The Thrashers, however, bring one of the NHL's hottest scorers into Saturday's contest. Kovalchuk pushed his goal streak to six games Thursday, netting the equalizer with 53 seconds left in regulation.

The Thrashers winger has nine goals and four assists during the streak and six goals and three assists on the road trip. He's recorded 19 goals and eight assists in the last 22 games.

"He's been wonderful," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "In the last month, he's probably been the best player in the NHL, him and (Alex) Ovechkin."

Bryan Little has recorded a goal and an assist in three straight games, and Ron Hainsey has an assist in four straight.

The Sharks (39-8-9) have rebounded from a 0-1-2 stretch with consecutive 4-2 home victories. San Jose pulled away in the second period of both wins, scoring three goals Tuesday night against Edmonton and two versus Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Despite shuffling their top line of Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton due to injuries to teammates, the Sharks have continued to produce offensively with 24 goals in the last six games. San Jose has averaged 3.45 goals this season, second in the league behind Detroit.

Marleau, moved from left wing on the top line to center on the third line, has six goals during a four-game point streak and 10 points in the last six contests. Thornton, now centering the second line, has nine points in the past four games.

"Playing our system, you could end up anywhere," said Marleau, whose team-leading 33 goals are two shy of his career high. "We're all kind of interchangeable. You know where everybody is going to be at, and that makes it a lot easier to switch around when we do."

The Sharks could get some reinforcements Saturday if forwards Jeremy Roenick, Tomas Plihal and Jody Shelley along with defenseman Brad Lukowich return.

These teams haven't met since a 5-1 Sharks road win March 22, 2007.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Feb 21 '09ATL 1 at SJS 3J. Cheechoo
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
I. Kovalchuk60303363-143594
V. Kozlov60183351-173282
T. White60153651-1018100
B. Little57251641-31493
R. Hainsey6052530-142030
C. Armstrong60151025-26322
R. Peverley4461925-11912
M. Reasoner5791120+52600
J. Williams4171118-9842
E. Christensen4351217-81010
M. Schneider4441115-105010
E. Perrin575914-81010
J. Slater465914-13000
N. Havelid6021113+04200
C. Thorburn606612-77400
T. Enstrom6011112+04001
N. Oystrick39369-102200
E. Boulton54279-112700
Z. Bogosian25358+31900
J. Crabb26347-22801
B. Valabik34055-49100
C. Stuart11314+1400
G. Exelby37044-76900
J. Motzko6101+1000
B. Sterling3101-2000
J. Lavallee-Smotherman2000-1000
S. Lehman1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
K. Lehtonen3311-18-39910753.15.908
J. Hedberg247-9-3716143.61.884
O. Pavelec113-6-0322753.55.884
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
J. Thornton57155368+234863
P. Marleau57333063+251289
D. Setoguchi56242751+181682
R. Clowe57212748+1149111
J. Pavelski55172643+91831
D. Boyle52142943+153863
M. Michalek52162440+133845
R. Blake5592837+218951
M. Vlasic5752429+202631
C. Ehrhoff5662127-65541
M. Grier55101222+72502
J. Cheechoo4591221+13042
T. Plihal515813+31401
J. Roenick29369-12210
M. Goc43279-61801
A. Semenov31156+74300
D. Murray50066+62200
B. Lukowich36066+81000
L. Kaspar12224+1801
J. McGinn18213-3001
J. Shelley45123-37301
B. Staubitz17123+24601
C. Lemieux13011-21900
T. Cavanagh12011-2200
D. Joslin11000-2600
R. Armstrong2000-1200
R. Vesce2000-2000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
E. Nabokov4531-7-711212152.50.908
B. Boucher139-1-2233361.79.932