Ducks-Sharks Preview

After having a limited impact against the Anaheim Ducks in the

2009 playoffs, Joe Thornton seemed to take his frustrations out

when the San Jose Sharks dominated the 2009-10 season series. The

San Jose captain also turned in quite a performance in his last

game to end another rut.

Thornton and the Sharks get their first look of the new season

at their Pacific Division rivals Saturday night when the Ducks

visit HP Pavilion.

San Jose (4-3-1) won the President’s Trophy two seasons ago

before falling in six games to Anaheim (4-6-1) in the first round

of the playoffs. Thornton was one of the major culprits for the

defeat with one goal and four assists in the series.

His six games against the Ducks last season were in total

contrast. Thornton amassed five goals and nine assists as the

Sharks went 5-1-0, with linemates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau

combining for 12 points.

That top line, though, was going through a rough stretch to open

2010-11, and started Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over New Jersey on the

bench. When the unit got on the ice, it responded with 13

points.

“I think they read the writing between the lines and responded,”

coach Todd McLellan said. “They’re a team of game-breakers who play

desperate. That was something we were waiting for from that line.

It was a really good display of leadership.”

Thornton notched his fourth career hat trick to end a five-game

goal drought and added two assists. Marleau and Heatley each had a

goal and three assists.

“Joe’s making a conscious effort to go to the net,” Marleau

said. “Our line did get off a lot of shots. We were having a lot of

fun out there, and this is something we can definitely build

off.”

The Sharks had also dropped their first three home games before

Wednesday’s win. They outscored the Ducks 12-4 in three home

victories last season.

“We’ll see if we can carry it over into a big game against

Anaheim on the weekend,” McLellan said.

Antero Niittymaki appears to have seized San Jose’s starting

goaltending job over another newcomer, Stanley Cup champion Antti

Niemi. Niittymaki is 3-0-1 with a 1.84 goals-against average while

Niemi is 1-3-0 with a 4.84 GAA.

Jason Blake scored a power-play goal and Jonas Hiller stopped 25

shots for Anaheim in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Devils. The Ducks,

who were playing one home game after a four-game trip, now head

back on the road after a frustrating night.

“We’re not playing as well as we’re supposed to, and this was

almost a must-win,” said Hiller, who is 3-5-1 despite a .917 save

percentage. “We just couldn’t find a way. Every time you think

you’ve got it going, we play a game like tonight and lose again. It

would be great if we could get a little streak going, but it seems

like we go out there every night and no one knows what to

expect.”

Anaheim leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf was held without a point for

only the second time in eight games. The Sharks held Getzlaf in

check last season, limiting him to three points in the six

meetings.