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Sharks seek first home win vs. struggling Devils

by Brian Hunter

DEVILS (2-6-1) at SHARKS (3-3-1)


Season Series:
First of two meetings this season, with San Jose paying a trip to New Jersey on Feb. 11. Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac each had a goal and an assist as the Devils held on for a 4-3 win in the most recent matchup, March 2 at HP Pavilion. Devin Setoguchi scored a pair of third-period goals to help rally the Sharks.

Big Story:
Neither team has won yet on home ice this season, which would seem to benefit the Devils as the visitors on Wednesday night. However, little has gone right in general for New Jersey, which has the NHL's worst percentage of points to games played.

"We're all really frustrated with the start we've had, the results we've had," forward Zach Parise said after a 3-1 loss to the rival New York Rangers on Sunday. "You've got a lot of frustrated guys in here."

Team Scope:

Devils: This is the second stop on a six-game road trip for New Jersey, which is 2-2-0 away from the Prudential Center. Traditionally one of the better home teams in the League, the Devils are off to an 0-4-1 start in front of their home fans. But before they can worry about fixing that they have to deal with the Sharks, followed by games in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Chicago. The Devils are currently dead last in offense, managing just a single goal in weekend losses to the Sabres and Rangers.

"I think we played a good game, we just can't score goals right now," said Kovalchuk, who had the lone tally against New York. "We need to be a little more simple and get more traffic in front. It seems like all the goalies play their best games against us. We need to get through that together."

Sharks: After winning twice to begin a three-game road trip, San Jose was blanked in the finale, 4-0 by Calgary on Sunday. All the damage was done in the first period, with goalie Antti Niemi being chased after allowing 3 goals on just 5 shots. The Sharks now shoot for their first victory at home, where they dropped previous games to the Thrashers and Hurricanes. One thing's for sure, they'll need a much better start than they had against the Flames.

"In the first period, there could have been two pucks on the ice and we wouldn't have had either one of them," coach Todd McLellan said. "We were that slow. We were pushed off pucks. We didn't compete along the boards. We weren't playing the way we were supposed to play as far as the system went. Very disappointing."

Who's Hot:
Dainius Zubrus has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Devils. … Joe Pavelski has 3 goals and 3 assists in the last three games for the Sharks.

Injury Report:
New Jersey hasn't had defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the lineup since a deflected shot in Washington broke his nose on Oct. 9. Fellow blueliners Mark Fraser (hand), Bryce Salvador (concussion) and Anssi Salmela (knee) are all out for the long term, as is forward Brian Rolston (sports hernia). … San Jose defenseman Derek Joslin is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Stat Pack: The Devils are averaging 1.67 goals per game and have scored two or fewer in seven of their first nine. … The Sharks have the League's second-best power play, clicking at a success rate of 31.4 percent.

Puck Drop:
New Jersey isn't daunted by the long road trip ahead, instead choosing to view it as a possible catalyst in turning around a difficult start.

"I think it's going to be a good thing for us," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We'll be able to spend some time together, do a few dinners and get ourselves going all in the same direction. That's going to be important because it's not going to get any easier for us to dig ourselves out of the hole we've put ourselves in."

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