NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, February 21st (All times eastern)
Atlanta Thrashers (21-32-6) at San Jose Sharks (39-8-9), 4 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Thrashers have acquitted themselves quite well so far on their swing through the Western United States. The team has yet to face its toughest challenge of the four-game road trip, however, a matchup with the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks this afternoon at HP Pavilion.
Atlanta has gone 2-0-1 thus far on the trek, opening things up with an impressive 8-4 victory at Anaheim on Sunday and following with a shootout triumph over Los Angeles one night later. The win streak came to an end Thursday in Phoenix, although the Thrashers did manage to pick up a point in a 4-3 shootout setback to the Coyotes.
The contest wasn't decided until the eighth round of the shootout phase, when Phoenix's Daniel Carcillo scored on a backhander after goaltender Mikael Tellqvist thwarted the Thrashers' Colby Armstrong's chance.
Atlanta sent the game into overtime on Ilya Kovalchuk's goal with just 53 seconds remaining in the third period. The star sniper has now tallied in six consecutive outings and has nine goals and 13 assists over that span.
Thrashers netminder Kari Lehtonen performed well in a losing effort, compiling 37 saves over regulation and overtime and stopping 6-of-8 attempts during the shootout. Atlanta was outshot by a 40-22 margin on the night.
Bryan Little added a goal and an assist for Atlanta, which has won four of its last five road tests despite an undesirable 9-17-2 away mark for the season.
The Thrashers now square off against a San Jose squad that has amassed a stellar 25-2-3 record at the Shark Tank this season and tops the West with 87 points. The Sharks have also taken the first two tests of a current three-game residency, following up a 4-2 victory over Edmonton on Tuesday with Thursday's decision over Los Angeles by an identical score.
San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 30 shots and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Lukas Kaspar, Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek each contributed goals to the winning effort.
Like Kovalchuk, Marleau has been on a scoring tear as of late. The Sharks captain has notched a goal in four straight games and has racked up 10 points (7 goals, 3 assists) over the team's last six tilts. Marleau's 33 goals on the season are just one short of a career high set in 2005-06.
Teammate Joe Pavelski had a four-game goal streak snapped in Wednesday's win, although he did assist on Michalek's marker.
These teams will be meeting for the first time since the Sharks recorded a 5-1 victory in Atlanta on March 22, 2007. San Jose is 7-1 with two ties lifetime against the Thrashers, who are winless (4 losses, 1 tie) in five previous visits to HP Pavilion.
02/21 10:35:21 ET