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Thrashers-Sharks Preview

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Thrashers-Sharks Preview

GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (10-16-3) at San Jose Sharks (10-12-4).

TIME: Tuesday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

Joe Thornton has made quite an impact for the San Jose Sharks after a blockbuster trade last week. Now, the home fans will get the chance to watch their team's newest acquisition for the first time.

Thornton makes his home debut when the Sharks welcome the Atlanta Thrashers in the only meeting between the teams this season.

The Sharks were mired in a 10-game losing streak before acquiring Thornton on Wednesday from the Boston Bruins for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. Thornton - the top overall pick in the 1997 draft and a probable 2006 Canadian Olympian - had his second straight two-assist game Saturday as San Jose rallied for a 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Every day, I think I'll get more comfortable," Thornton said. "I think we're going to start playing some great hockey right now."

Thornton has six goals and 13 assists in 17 career games against Atlanta.

Thornton's acquisition has also sparked linemate Patrick Marleau, picked second by San Jose in the '97 draft. Marleau has a goal and five assists in his first two games playing with Thornton, and on Monday was named NHL player of the week.

Four of Marleau's seven career goals against Atlanta have come at home.

"You can already see that Patty is freed up a little more," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "We did give up a lot to get Joe, but this is a trade that's going to give a lot of people an opportunity to shine and do things they haven't done. He's everything I thought he was."

With its longest losing streak in more than a decade now behind them, San Jose will try to end a five-game home skid. The Sharks have not won at the HP Pavilion since a 3-2 victory over Nashville on Nov. 2.

The Sharks have not lost six in a row at home since March 9-26, 1997.

Atlanta, meanwhile, is looking to avoid a season-high fifth straight loss.

Second-period goals from Slava Kozlov and Marian Hossa staked the Thrashers to a 2-0 lead Monday at Phoenix, but the Coyotes scored five unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 victory.

"They played really well in the third period," Atlanta rookie goaltender Michael Garnett said. "Some bounces ended up in our net, which was unlucky for us. It shifted the momentum of the game."

Atlanta has scored only six goals during its four-game skid. Top scorers Marc Savard and Ilya Kovalchuk have each been held without a point in three straight games.

With highly touted Kari Lehtonen and veteran backup Mike Dunham sidelined by groin injuries, Atlanta has been forced to use Garnett and Adam Berkhoel in goal, but neither has fared well.

Garnett is 0-3-1 with a 4.69 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in his last four starts.

Berkhoel has not started a game since giving up a season-high seven goals on Nov. 16 against the New York Islanders.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 5): Thrashers - 23 points, 3rd place, 11 PB, Southeast Division. Sharks - 24 points, 5th place, 11 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 17 goals; Savard, 26 assists and 37 points; Andy Sutton, 60 PIM. Sharks - Marleau, 11 goals; Joe Thornton, 28 assists and 37 points; Mark Smith, 40 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec 5): Thrashers - Power play: 20.5 percent (43 for 209), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.8 percent (149 for 189), 27th. Sharks - Power play: 14.8 percent (25 for 168), tied for 25th. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent (103 for 127), 22nd.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Garnett (3-6-1, 0 SO, 4.00 GAA); Berkhoel (2-4-0, 4.08). Sharks - Vesa Toskala (1-4-0, 4.81); Nolan Schaefer (5-1-0, 1, 1.88).

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

LAST MEETING: Jan. 10, 2004; Sharks, 5-2. At San Jose, Calif., Evgeni Nabokov made 31 saves for his 100th career win and the Sharks got first-period goals from Alex Korolyuk, Nils Ekman and Niko Dimitrakos.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 5-7-2 on the road; Sharks - 4-3-2 at home.


Associated Press
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