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Sharks look to bounce back against Panthers

by Brian Hunter /

SHARKS (30-20-6) at PANTHERS (23-24-7)


Last 10:
San Jose 8-1-1; Florida 2-4-4

Season series: This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these teams. Bryan Allen scored 2:46 into overtime as Florida overcame a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 win in San Jose in the most recent matchup on March 13, 2010.

Big story: For the first time in 11 games, the Sharks failed to come away with at least one point in Friday's 2-1 loss to the Devils. They'll try to get a new streak going as their seven-game road trip nears its end in Sunrise. The Pacific Division race is by far the tightest in the NHL, with five points separating the first-place Stars from the fifth-place Kings. The Sharks and Ducks are tied for second, two points off the lead.

Team Scope:

Sharks: The month of March features plenty of home cooking for San Jose, but for now the Sharks seem content with life away from HP Pavilion. They came away victorious on the first four stops on this road trip and took a 1-0 lead in the third period Friday on a Patrick Marleau goal, but couldn't hold on. Now they face the Panthers and then the Predators on Tuesday before heading back to California.

"That's the way this game goes," rookie Logan Couture told the San Jose Mercury News after the loss to New Jersey. "The players on that team can strike quickly, and they showed it tonight. That was a tough game to lose."

Panthers: While Florida still remains within striking distance of an Eastern Conference playoff berth, less than 10 points out, the Panthers have yet to put together the type of run that will be necessary for them to be seen as a serious contender. They're 1-2-2 since the All-Star break, including Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Sabres in overtime. Steve Bernier and Marty Reasoner rallied them from a pair of one-goal deficits, but it wasn't enough for two points.

"We found a way to lose that point again," Bernier said. "It's frustrating but the last thing we want to do is to put our heads down. When you win, you get confident and go up in the standings."

Who's hot: Marleau has goals in consecutive games for the Sharks and Antti Niemi has allowed just four goals over his last four starts with a .966 save percentage. ... Dennis Wideman has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Panthers.

Injury report: San Jose goalie Antero Niittymaki has been battling a lower-body injury and wasn't active for Friday's game. ... Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (ankle) and forward Cory Stillman (upper body) are day-to-day. Defenseman Bryan McCabe (jaw) and forwards Shawn Matthias (ankle) and Evgeny Dadonov (finger) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
Couture not only leads the Sharks with 24 goals, his plus-12 rating is also best on the team. ... Jack Skille saw a season-high 17:45 of ice time in his debut with the Panthers after being acquired as part of a deal with the Blackhawks involving Michael Frolik.

Puck drop: San Jose coach Todd McLellan said his team handles travel well and told the Mercury News a trip like the current one they're on isn't really all that bad.

"Travel's somewhat easier out here, too, believe it or not," he said, referring to the East Coast. "When we're out on a seven-game road trip and the flights are only an hour or 40 minutes, it's a lot easier than flying three hours out West through time zones."

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