GAME: New York Islanders (30-25-10-4) at San Jose Sharks (33-19-11-6).
TIME: Thursday, 10:30 p.m. EST.
Consecutive road losses to two of the NHL's best teams was understandable
for the San Jose Sharks.
The ensuing home defeat to a team that is playing out the schedule should be
cause for concern for the Pacific Division leaders.
San Jose looks to end a season-high three-game skid when it faces the
slumping New York Islanders.
After gaining points in six straight (5-0-0-1), the Sharks were outscored
9-1 in road losses to Colorado and Dallas.
A return to HP Pavilion figured to benefit San Jose, which had won a
franchise-record eight straight at home. The last-place Minnesota Wild,
however, opened a 4-1 lead after two periods and held on for a 4-3 victory
Alex Korolyuk scored twice for the Sharks, who have seen their lead in the
Pacific sliced to two points over the Stars. A 4-0 loss to lowly Pittsburgh on
Tuesday prevented Dallas from moving into a tie for first place.
"I know we're a frustrated club right now," San Jose's Alyn McCauley said.
"Everyone is squeezing their sticks a little too tight and we're not seeing
the things we usually see."
The Sharks were without injured forwards Mike Ricci and Marco Sturm and
defensemen Kyle McLaren and Tom Preissing on Tuesday. McLaren, who has missed
six games with facial lacerations, is the only one expected back in the lineup
Center Curtis Brown, acquired from Buffalo at Tuesday's trade deadline, is
expected to make his Sharks debut Thursday.
Sharks coach Ron Wilson said Brown will probably play on a line with leading
scorer Patrick Marleau.
"We'll get him right in and maybe he can get Patrick Marleau going again,"
Wilson said. "He's been in a funk with Marco (Sturm) out of the lineup."
New York opened a five-game trip Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime loss to St.
Shawn Bates and Mark Parrish had goals for the Islanders, outshot 25-8 over
the final two periods and overtime.
New York, trying to hold onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern
Conference, is winless in five straight (0-2-1-2).
"We got a point," Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. "This time of
year, points are hard to come by. Any way you get 'em, you take 'em."
Star center Alexei Yashin returned to the lineup Tuesday for the first time
since sustaining a serious forearm laceration on Dec. 23. He played sparingly
and didn't see the ice at all in the third period or overtime.
"I felt fine," Yashin said. "I haven't played competitive hockey for two
months. Skating-wise, I felt fine. It will get better and better every game."
STANDINGS: Islanders - 74 points, 3rd place, 16 PB, Atlantic Division.
Sharks - 83 points, 1st place, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Trent Hunter and Mariusz Czerkawski, 23 goals;
Oleg Kvasha, 31 assists; Hunter, 46 points; Eric Cairns, 177 PIM. Sharks -
Marleau, 27 goals and 50 points; Vincent Damphousse, 25 assists; Scott Parker,
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 9): Islanders - Power play: 16.8 percent (45
for 268), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (254 for 302), 16th.
Sharks - Power play: 15.7 percent (45 for 286), 18th. Penalty killing: 85.4
percent (234 for 274), 4th.
GOALTENDERS: Islanders - Rick DiPietro (16-15-5, 3 SO, 2.40 GAA); Garth Snow
(14-14-5, 1, 2.76). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (23-18-7, 8, 2.18); Vesa Toskala
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Islanders, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 19, 2003; Islanders, 3-0. At San Jose, Calif., Snow
stopped 29 shots for his 15th career shutout and Michael Peca scored twice to
lead New York.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 9-15-7-3 on the road; Sharks - 18-6-7-2 at