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Sharks-Sabres Preview @NHLdotcom
Sharks-Sabres Preview

GAME: San Jose Sharks (8-12-4) at Buffalo Sabres (16-9-1).

TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.

The San Jose Sharks were expected to perform at a higher level this season. They hope Joe Thornton can start making that happen.

The three-time All-Star center makes his debut for the Sharks when they face the Buffalo Sabres.

San Jose acquired Thornton from Boston on Wednesday night in a trade between two last-place franchises desperate to shake up their dismal seasons, sending forwards Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau and defenseman Brad Stuart to the Bruins.

Thornton is preparing for a fresh start on a new coast after being stunned by the news he was traded.

"It was emotional," Thornton said Thursday. "But as the night went on, I kind of calmed down. Now, I'm excited to start something new."

If any team is in need of a spark, it's the Sharks. It has been nearly a month since they've won a game, having lost 10 straight since beating Anaheim 1-0 in overtime on Nov. 4.

The Sharks can't wait to see what type of lift Thornton, a six-time 20-goal scorer, can provide.

"We gave away three quality guys for a dominant centerman," said defenseman Kyle McLaren, a former teammate of Thornton's in Boston. "It's a big move for us. And Joe's the type of player that can help our team right now."

Added Sharks captain Patrick Marleau: "There's not one team out there that wouldn't want to have him on their team."

Thornton was leading the Bruins with 33 points, and has registered at least one in all but five games this season. His best season was in 2002-03, when he had 36 goals and 65 assists in 77 games.

Sharks coach Ron Wilson learned about the deal shortly before San Jose's 4-1 loss at Dallas on Wednesday.

"We were scrambling last night, but riding the plane here to Buffalo, you're thinking about all the possibilities of having a player like Joe on your team," Wilson said.

Wilson plans to stick Thornton on a line between cousin Scott Thornton and right wing Jonathan Cheechoo.

The trade unites the first two players selected in the 1997 draft - Thornton was No. 1 and Marleau was picked second.

"Following from afar, it was, `Patty Marleau and Joe Thornton, and who's going to be better?"' Wilson said. "Now it's going to be enjoyable to see the two of them compete with each other for the same goal, and that's winning the Stanley Cup."

The Sabres, meanwhile, are riding their longest win streak since a six-game run from Dec. 31, 1992-Jan. 10, 1993.

Brian Campbell scored 2:15 into overtime and Tim Connolly had a goal and two assists as Buffalo won its fifth in a row with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

The Sabres have excelled despite injuries to team scoring leader Daniel Briere and left wing J.P. Dumont.

"We've just been fighting and working hard - a lot of luck, too," Campbell said. "You need that to win games."

Campbell also assisted on Connolly's power-play goal as the Sabres improved to 8-0-1 since a 6-1 loss in Ottawa on Nov. 12.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 1): Sharks - 20 points, 5th place, 13 PB, Pacific Division. Sabres - 33 points, 2nd place (tied), 5 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Marleau, 10 goals, 13 assists and 23 points; Mark Smith, 38 PIM. Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 13 goals; Teppo Numminen, 17 assists; Briere, 20 points; Paul Gaustad and Toni Lydman, 22 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 1): Sharks - Power play: 14.0 percent (22 for 157), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.1 percent (93 for 116), 24th (tied). Sabres - Power play: 21.7 percent (35 for 161), 3rd. Penalty killing: 82.7 percent (110 for 133), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (3-7-4, 0 SO, 3.34 GAA); Nolan Schaefer (5-1-0, 1, 1.94). Sabres - Martin Biron (9-4-1, 3.36); Mika Noronen (1-1-0, 3.06).

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

LAST MEETING: Feb. 10; Sabres, 2-1. At Buffalo, Briere celebrated his first game as Sabres captain by scoring both goals of the team's goals against the Sharks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 4-9-2 on the road; Sabres - 8-4-1 at home.

Associated Press
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