SHARKS (5-4-1) at THRASHERS (4-2-1)
This is the only meeting between these clubs. Last season, the Sharks earned a 3-1 win on home ice on Feb. 21. Jeremy Roenick picked up his 700th career assist in his return from a 10-week injury absence, and Ryane Clowe
broke a scoreless tie 30 seconds into the third period for San Jose. Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves for the Sharks, who set a franchise record with their NHL-best 26th home win. Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton
also scored power-play goals as the Sharks rallied to win their third straight.
Two days after facing the high-powered offense of Washington -- and falling one goal short -- the Thrashers don't catch a break as the equally potent Sharks come to town. Atlanta didn't allow a special teams goal to the Capitals, who scored five times. The Thrashers also did well by holding Washington's top two lines in check. The Capitals received goals from four players who scored for the first time in 2009-10 -- Eric Fehr, Alexandre Giroux, Jeff Schultz and Chris Clark.
This is the fifth game on San Jose’s six-game road trip that began on Oct. 15. They are 2-2-0 on the excursion thus far following Thursday's 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay.
Rookie defenseman Jason Demers
has been a wonderful surprise for the Sharks. The 21-year-old has 8 assists (4 on the power play) through his first 10 games and is among the League leaders in points for blueliners. Demers was a seventh-round pick, No. 186, in the 2008 draft.
"I just said to myself that I didn't really have anything to lose," Demers said of his training camp experience. "I just decided to go all out and go for it."
This is the second game on Atlanta’s three-game homestand that began with a 5-4 loss against Washington on Thursday.
One season after having the 29th-ranked penalty killing unit in the League, the Thrashers are at a 91-percent success rate, good for first. In addition, Atlanta has the NHL's third-best power play with a 29 percent success rate.
Despite not having incumbent No. 1 starter Kari Lehtonen (back injury), Ondrej Pavelec (3-2-1, 3.04 goals-against average, .907 save percentage) and Johan Hedberg (1-0-0, 1.40 GAA, .964) have been strong in goal.
For the Sharks, Devin Setoguchi has 3 goals and an assist in his last three games, Patrick Marleau
has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last five games, and Joe Thornton
has a goal and 4 assists in his last three games. For the Thrashers, Rich Peverley has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last four games.
For the Thrashers, defenseman Boris Valabik (ankle) and goaltender Kari Lehtonen (back) are on injured reserve. For the Sharks, centers Joe Pavelski
(lower-body) and Torrey Mitchell
(leg) are on injured reserve.
Kovalchuk has 9 goals through Atlanta’s first seven games. Last season, Kovalchuk didn’t score his ninth goal until the Thrashers’ 26th game, coming on Dec. 6, 2008.
This is only the third home game of the season for the up-and-coming Thrashers. Giving the home fans reason to believe this squad is a playoff contender is paramount, and what better way than to give the reigning Presidents' Trophy champions a stern test for 60 minutes?
-- Rocky Bonanno, NHL.com