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Blues-Sharks Preview @NHLdotcom
Blues-Sharks Preview

GAME: St. Louis Blues (7-20-4) at San Jose Sharks (15-14-4).

TIME: Friday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

Joe Thornton's arrival in San Jose has given the Sharks' offense a lift. But when he has an off-night, the rest of the team seems to follows suit.

Thornton looks to help the Sharks bounce back from a rare loss when they host the St. Louis Blues.

In nine games since being acquired from the Boston Bruins in a four-player deal, San Jose has gone 7-2 since his arrival, including Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Thornton, named this week to the Canadian Olympic team that will play in Turin, Italy, recorded at least one assist in each of his first eight games, tying a franchise record. He had three goals and 13 assists over that span, but had his 14-game point streak snapped on Thursday.

The Sharks have become far more prolific on offense since Thornton's arrival. Until Thursday's defeat, they had scored at least four goals in each of his games with the team, outscoring their opponents 37-20.

However, Patrick Marleau scored the lone goal for the Sharks against the Coyotes.

"He's always behind the net lurking," Phoenix goalie Curtis Joseph said of Thornton. "He protects the puck so well and is able to find the passes. You have to know where everyone is when he's got the puck."

Thornton had 23 goals and 50 assists last season for Boston, where he spent his entire career before the trade.

The Blues are coming off their ninth loss in 12 games, a 6-3 setback Wednesday to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Dean McAmmond, Dennis Wideman and Eric Brewer scored for St. Louis, which owns the worst record and the fewest wins in the NHL.

The Blues have allowed at least five goals in 15 games this season and eight of their last 12.

"No one feels bad for you. No one cares, really, except for the guys in this room and in our organization," said center Doug Weight, a member of the U.S. Olympic team. "I'm proud that we stuck up for ourselves. We played with some heart and made it a game, at least. But it's just not enough right now. This is as frustrated as I've been in my career, so it's a great challenge."

St. Louis has lost three straight to the Sharks after an 8-1 stretch against them.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 22): Blues - 18 points, 5th place, 31 PB, Central Division. Sharks - 34 points, 5th place, 11 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Mike Sillinger and McAmmond, 11 goals; Weight, 20 assists and 26 points; Jamal Mayers, 81 PIM. Sharks - Jonathan Cheechoo, 16 goals; Thornton, 37 assists and 49 points; Mark Smith, 53 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 22): Blues - Power play: 15.3 percent (34 for 222), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (161 for 199), tied for 21st. Sharks - Power play: 15.4 percent (31 for 202), tied for 22nd. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (133 for 162), tied for 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Reinhard Divis (0-3-0, 4.64 GAA); Jason Bacashihua (1-1-0, 4.79). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (8-9-4, 3.00); Vesa Toskala (2-4-0, 4.47).

SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 8; Sharks, 7-6. At St. Louis, Cheechoo scored with 1:54 left for the Sharks, who trailed 5-3 entering the third period before recording their first win of the season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 3-9-2 on the road; Sharks - 9-3-2 at home.

Associated Press
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