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Capitals-Sharks Preview @NHLdotcom
Capitals-Sharks Preview

GAME: Washington Capitals (10-17-2) at San Jose Sharks (13-12-4).

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

The Sharks have made winning look easy since acquiring Joe Thornton late last month.

Thornton and San Jose look to extend several streaks when they meet the Washington Capitals in their only regular-season meeting.

In just five games since being acquired Nov. 30 from Boston in a four-player deal, Thornton has helped push the Sharks back over .500 with multipoint efforts in each of those contests. He has two goals and 10 assists in that span as San Jose has gone 5-0 following a 10-game losing streak.

"You just hope to come in and help win games," Thornton said after recording a goal and three assists in the Sharks' 4-3 win Saturday over Carolina. "This team has a lot of confidence right now and it's been fun playing out here."

Thornton has three goals and 10 assists during an eight-game point streak against the Capitals dating to Oct. 30, 2002, when he was with the Bruins.

Teammates Patrick Marleau and Johnathan Cheechoo have benefited from the addition of the top overall pick in the 1997 draft. Marleau, selected second by San Jose behind Thornton, has two goals and 11 assists since Thornton's arrival, while Cheechoo has five goals and two assists in the last five games.

The Sharks have outscored opponents 25-12 during their longest winning streak in nearly four years. San Jose won seven straight from Jan. 30-Feb. 28, 2002 - a run capped by a 5-2 win over the Capitals.

The Sharks also have won eight straight against Washington dating to Feb. 20, 1999.

The Capitals got offense from an unexpected source and picked up a rare road win Thursday. Veteran defenseman Jamie Heward scored twice for just the third multigoal game of his seven-year career in Washington's 3-2 win over Los Angeles.

Both of Heward's goals came on the power play, and Brian Sutherby snapped an 18-game goal drought with a short-handed goal as the Caps won for just the third time in 14 road games this season.

"We've played really well on the road and hadn't gotten any results," Heward said. "We just weren't getting the breaks we thought we deserved, but tonight we got a break.

"Those are things that weren't going our way before, so this was an indication of what our team can do."

Rookie star Alexander Ovechkin assisted on both of Heward's goals. The top overall pick in the 2004 draft and leading scorer among rookies has three goals and six assists during a four-game point streak.

Olaf Kolzig finished with 26 saves for his first road victory since Nov. 19. Kolzig is 1-7-1 with a 3.46 goals-against average in nine games against the Sharks.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 15): Capitals - 22 points, 5th place, 20 PB, Southeast Division. Sharks - 30 points, 5th place, 9 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Ovechkin, 18 goals and 34 points; Ovechkin and Jeff Halpern, 16 assists; Brendan Witt, 78 PIM. Sharks - Marleau and Cheechoo, 12 goals; Thornton, 34 assists and 45 points; Mark Smith, 44 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 15): Capitals - Power play: 12.6 percent (22 for 174), 29th in NHL. Penalty killing: 77.7 percent (154 for 211), 29th. Sharks - Power play: 15.8 percent (29 for 183), 20th. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (113 for 138), 21st.

GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Kolzig (9-11-2, 3.35 GAA); Brent Johnson (1-5-0, 4.99). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (6-7-4, 3.10); Vesa Toskala (2-4-0, 4.47).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 8, 2003, Sharks, 3-2. At Washington, Alyn McCauley, Cheechoo and Marleau scored, and Nabokov made 32 saves for San Jose.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 3-10-1 on the road; Sharks - 7-3-2 at home.

Associated Press
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