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Sharks return home determined to fix power play

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- After losing the final three games on their four-game road trip, the San Jose Sharks will try to get back on track Tuesday night at SAP Center against the New York Islanders, a team winless in 10 consecutive games and 10 straight on the road.

The Sharks led the powerful Pacific Division when they hit the road. Now they trail the Anaheim Ducks (47 points) by four points, and are just one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and two points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks.

"You look at it and everybody's right there now," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after his team's morning skate. "Last week we were ahead of everybody. Now we're right with the pack. It's a big game for us to put us back where we want to be. These guys, they've been struggling, but they're really dangerous. I like how they played against [the Pittsburgh Penguins] last year in the playoffs. They looked fast. It should be a good test for us tonight."

Job No. 1 for the Sharks is to fix their broken power play. They went 0-for-4 Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild and were 1-for-13 on the road trip. The Sharks' only power-play goal came during a 4-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the Sharks' past 10 games, they've gone 3-for-35 with the man advantage.

Before they took the ice Tuesday, the Sharks had a meeting devoted to the power play. Then they spent much of their time during the morning skate working on it.

"Every team goes through rough stretches, and we're going through one right now," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "I think we focused on our power play today. That's something that needs to get better. Last game in Minnesota we had some chances. We just haven't been sharp lately. I liked most of our game the other night, but the power play was off."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he expects to see an improved power play against the Islanders.

"It's about a commitment level that has to go a little bit higher," McLellan said. "It's about a work ethic that has to go up. It's about execution that has to be better. And if you do those three things to begin with then at least you'll give yourself a chance to repair it."

San Jose won't have to face Islanders goaltender and former Shark Evgeni Nabokov. Out since Nov. 16 with a groin injury, he was on the ice for an optional skate, but Kevin Poulin will be in net.

"He is close. He's very close," coach Jack Capuano said of Nabokov. "We don't want to put any player into a situation that can hurt him. He's gone through the protocol. He's been on the ice. I'm thinking if things go the way they're going, we'll see him shortly."

Nabokov hopes to play Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes in the final game of the Islanders' five-game road trip.

"I'm getting real close," Nabokov said. "It's tough after the injury to get in a groove because we're on this road trip and you don't have many practices. Like today, you practice with two or three guys. I'm sure if we had a couple days in between it would be much easier. Hopefully, maybe by the next game I'll be ready. We'll see. To be honest with you, I don't know. We'll see how I feel tomorrow and we'll go from there."

Ryan Strome, the Islanders' first-round pick (No. 5) in the 2011 NHL Draft, is expected to join the team in Phoenix and be officially called up from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. Strome, 20, leads the AHL with 33 points and has a league-high 24 assists.

The Islanders opened a spot on their roster Monday when they placed forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard on waivers.

"My guess is that he'll join us in Phoenix and most likely get into the lineup and see what the young guy can do," Capuano said.

Here are the projected lineups for the Sharks and Islanders:


Tomas Hertl -- Joe Thornton -- Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau -- Logan Couture -- Joe Pavelski

Martin Havlat -- Freddie Hamilton -- Tyler Kennedy

Matthew Nieto -- Andrew Desjardins -- Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Brad Stuart - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: James Sheppard

Injured: Scott Hannan (undisclosed) Raffi Torres (knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery), Mike Brown (lower body)

NOTES: Havlat, who missed the Minnesota game with an undisclosed injury, skated Tuesday morning and might return to the lineup. "I still have to meet with him. It looked like he was skating a little better today, so that's a good sign," McLellan said. Hannan will miss his second straight game with an undisclosed injury.


Thomas Vanek - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Colin McDonald

Michael Grabner - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Eric Boulton

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Andrew MacDonald

Aaron Ness - Matt Carkner

Kevin Poulin

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Peter Regin, Radek Martinek

Injured: Brian Strait (upper body), Evgeni Nabokov (groin), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion)

NOTES: Boulton will be in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 23 against the Penguins, a stretch of seven games. He'll replace Regin, who will be a healthy scratch for the second time in the past three games.

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