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Sharks-Senators Preview @NHLdotcom
Sharks-Senators Preview

GAME: San Jose Sharks (19-16-5) at Ottawa Senators (29-9-3).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

With Daniel Alfredsson back on the ice, the Ottawa Senators are quickly returning to form.

Alfredsson will try to lead the Senators to their sixth straight home victory when they meet the San Jose Sharks.

Ottawa's captain cracked his rib in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders on Dec. 30, and missed the next four games. The Senators went 1-3 over that span and lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season.

Alfredsson recorded two goals and two assists in his return to the lineup Tuesday, leading Ottawa to a 7-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. It was Alfredsson's 18th multipoint game of the season.

"He adds a whole new dimension that we didn't have a week ago," said Senators coach Bryan Murray, whose team has won 17 of 20 home games this season.

The top line of Alfredsson, Bryan Smolinski and Dany Heatley combined for eight points Tuesday as Smolinski had three assists and Heatley scored a power-play goal.

Jason Spezza, Ottawa's third-leading scorer, has missed nine of the last 10 games with a pulled chest muscle but could return Thursday or Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.

"Probably not since August any of us has been 100 percent, but I feel good," Alfredsson said. "I can't say it hindered anything I did out there. I felt confident. I got bumped a few times and decided to go in the corners, and it gave me more confidence."

Ottawa capitalized on 3 of 9 power-play opportunities, breaking a four-game skid without an extra-man goal. Mike Fisher and Zdeno Chara each had a goal and an assist while Chris Neil and Patrick Eaves also scored for the Senators, who outshot the Coyotes 39-23.

While the Senators benefitted from their star's return, San Jose saw its new leader ejected less than six minutes into Tuesday's 6-2 win over the Boston Bruins.

Returning to face his old team for the first time since being traded on Nov. 30th, Joe Thornton received an automatic ejection and game misconduct for checking Hal Gill from behind.

"I was excited about coming back," said Thornton, who was traded in exchange for Wayne Primeau, Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart. "It was unfortunate I couldn't play the whole game."

Josh Langfeld helped pick up the slack in Thornton's absence, scoring his first two goals of the season.

"The puck has been following me, but it was nice to get the monkey off my back," Langfeld said. "I feel 20-30 pounds lighter."

Scott Hannan, Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo all tallied power-play goals for the Sharks. Marleau and Cheechoo each added two assists, while Nils Ekman had a goal and two assists.

San Jose has won four straight overall, but has dropped four of its last five meetings with Ottawa.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 43 points, 4th place, 15 PB, Pacific Division. Senators - 61 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Cheechoo, 24 goals; Thornton, 44 assists and 59 points; Mark Smith, 55 PIM. Senators - Alfredsson and Heatley, 27 goals; Spezza, 35 assists; Alfredsson, 59 points; Chara, 100 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sharks - Power play: 17.6 percent (43 for 244), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.2 percent (158 for 197), 25th. Senators - Power play: 21.7 percent (57 for 263), 3rd. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent (230 for 272), 7th.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (10-11-5, 2.98 GAA); Vesa Toskala (4-4-0, 3.82). Senators - Dominik Hasek (21-6-2, 3 SO, 2.04); Ray Emery (8-3-1, 1, 3.07).

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

LAST MEETING: Oct. 18, 2003; Senators, 4-1. At San Jose, Calif., Marian Hossa scored twice for the Senators, and Radek Bonk recorded a goal and an assist.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 7-12-2 on the road; Senators - 17-3-0 at home.

Associated Press
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