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Panthers-Sharks Preview @NHLdotcom
Panthers-Sharks Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (9-16-4) at San Jose Sharks (11-12-4).

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

Joe Thornton looks to continue his strong play and help his new teammates win their fourth straight game when the revitalized San Jose Sharks host the Florida Panthers.

San Jose acquired Thornton in a blockbuster deal with Boston on Nov. 30 for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. The trade has paid immediate dividends for the Sharks, who have won three straight with Thornton in the lineup on the heels of a 10-game losing streak.

"We're 3-0 and scored 15 goals since we picked up Thornton," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "It's kind of nice the things you were hoping would happen with the trade have."

Thornton has six points in three games with the Sharks. The 26-year-old center scored his first goal for San Jose in his home debut Tuesday, a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.

"It's nice to find the back of the net in the first home game," said Thornton, who received a roaring ovation when the starting lineups were announced. "It's nice how the fans welcomed me and the city. That gave me a boost to start the game."

Thornton is providing a glimpse of what could be a promising run with him leading San Jose's offense. The former No. 1 draft pick is known for his superior vision on the ice.

"He's a playmaker," Wilson said. "He makes others around him better."

Patrick Marleau can attest to that with nine points in his last three games - matching a franchise record for most points in a three-game stretch, set by Kelly Kisio in December 1992.

Alyn McCauley extended his points streak to five games with two assists for the Sharks, who snapped a five-game skid at home.

San Jose continues a four-game homestand against Florida, which set a new team record with its 10th straight road loss Wednesday, 4-3 at Dallas.

Juraj Kolnik, Nathan Horton and Joe Nieuwendyk scored in the second period to tie the game. However, Jere Lehtinen connected on the power play with 15.8 seconds left to lift the Stars, who had five chances with the man advantage in the third period.

"I thought we came back hard and deserved a much better fate," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "When you play half the period short-handed, it's going to be very difficult to win."

Florida hasn't won on the road since a 4-3 overtime victory at Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. The previous franchise mark was a nine-game road skid from Feb. 9-March 25, 2002.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 7): Panthers - 22 points, 4th place, 14 PB, Southeast Division. Sharks - 26 points, 5th place, 11 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 12 goals, 15 assists, 27 points and 40 PIM. Sharks - Marleau, 11 goals; Thornton, 29 assists and 39 points; Mark Smith, 42 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 7): Panthers - Power play: 14.6 percent (23 for 157), 27th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.4 percent (147 for 185), 25th. Sharks - Power play: 15.6 percent (27 for 173), 22nd (tied). Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (107 for 131), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Roberto Luongo (9-13-4, 2 SO, 3.33 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-3-0, 0, 2.49). Sharks - Vesa Toskala (1-4-0, 4.81); Nolan Schaefer (5-1-0, 1, 1.88).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 3, 2004; Sharks, 3-0. At San Jose, Ekman, McCauley and Sturm all scored.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 2-10-3 on the road; Sharks - 5-3-2 at home.

Associated Press

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