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Lightning-Sharks Preview @NHLdotcom
Lightning-Sharks Preview

GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (22-19-3) at San Jose Sharks (20-17-5).

TIME: Monday, 8 p.m. EST.

Two teams fighting to stay in the playoff mix meet for the only time this season when the San Jose Sharks face off against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

San Jose begins play in 11th place in the Western Conference, eight points behind the eighth-place Edmonton Oilers.

Tampa Bay has it a little easier. The Lightning are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference race, two points behind the New Jersey Devils, three behind the Atlanta Thrashers and four in back of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Sharks also will try to forget their last game in which they allowed six second-period goals in a 6-2 loss to the Canadiens, handing new coach Bob Gainey his first Montreal win.

"We deserved what we got in the second period," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said.

Added Evgeni Nabokov, who made 14 saves before being replaced by Vesa Toskala in the third period: "We've got to throw this one out of the window and forget about it."

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak, which included three in a row at home. San Jose is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games at the HP Pavilion since a five-game home skid from Nov. 5-26.

Joe Thornton scored in the loss to Montreal, giving him six goals and 22 assists in 18 games since being acquired Nov. 30 from the Boston Bruins.

Linemate Jonathan Cheechoo has benefitted from the addition of Thornton, scoring 18 of his team-high 25 goals since the trade. Cheechoo needs three goals to match his career high set in 2003-04.

This marks the start of a four-game road trip for the Lightning.

Martin St. Louis tallied a goal and an assist in the Tampa Bay's 4-2 win Friday over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

It was the team's first game since waiving 23-year veteran and captain Dave Andreychuk earlier in the week.

"It was a couple tough days," said St. Louis, who with Thornton will represent Canada next month at the Turin Olympics. "But you've got to move forward, and I thought we did that."

The win also was the 143rd for Lightning coach John Tortorella, moving him past Terry Crisp for the most in franchise history.

The defending champions have struggled recently with only five wins in their last 14 games, and have not converted a power play goal in seven games, going 0-for-36.

Goaltender John Grahame, who was named to the U.S. Olympic Team, has won only two of his last eight starts with a 3.65 goals-against average. He did not play against Columbus after being pulled in the third period of a 6-3 loss Jan. 7 to the Boston Bruins in which he allowed five goals.

Grahame will likely get the start in this game, putting a record of 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .943 save percentage on the line.

Sean Burke is just 2-7-1 with a 4.50 GAA and .848 save percentage in 10 career starts in San Jose.

STANDINGS: Lightning - 47 points, 3rd place, 17 PB, Southeast Division. Sharks - 45 points, 5th place, 17 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Vincent Lecavalier and Fredrik Modin, 18 goals; Vaclav Prospal, 31 assists and 48 points; Pavel Kubina, 66 PIM. Sharks - Cheechoo, 25 goals; Joe Thornton, 46 assists and 61 points; Mark Smith, 59 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 13.2 percent (35 for 266), 29th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (182 for 223), 17th. Sharks - Power play: 17.1 percent (44 for 257), 17th. Penalty killing: 79.3 percent (165 for 208), 27th.

GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Grahame (16-14-1, 2 SO, 2.93 GAA); Burke (6-4-2, 0, 2.63). Sharks - Nabokov (11-12-5, 1, 3.02); Toskala (4-4-0, 0, 3.66).

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

LAST MEETING: Oct. 30, 2003; Tied, 2-2. At Tampa, Fla., Andreychuk scored the game-tying goal in the third period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 10-10-2 on the road; Sharks - 12-4-3 at home.

Associated Press

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