Thrashers-Sharks Preview

After opening the season in Europe, the San Jose Sharks have

spent the past week knocking around one another in practice.

They’ll begin the North American portion of their schedule

against a team they’ve knocked around for the last several

years.

Following a lengthy layoff, the Sharks look to continue their

dominance over the Atlanta Thrashers in their opener Saturday

night.

San Jose (1-0-1) began the season with a two-game series against

Columbus in Stockholm, Sweden. The Sharks won 3-2 on Oct. 8, and

lost by the same score in overtime the next day.

“We have some points in the bank that people can’t take away

from us and we start building on our season,” San Jose coach Todd

McLellan said.

The Sharks left Europe immediately after the defeat, and upon

arriving back in the United States, spent the past few days

practicing and re-adjusting to the time change. After several

scrimmages and watching other NHL teams play, San Jose feels it’s

ready to get on with its schedule.

“I know they are getting tired of practicing,” McLellan told the

Sharks’ official website. “We’ve had two games in about two weeks

and a lot of practices. They want to go out and find out where we

are at.”

San Jose might already have a good idea of how it stacks up

against Atlanta (2-2-0).

The Sharks have outscored the Thrashers 22-10 in winning five

straight meetings since a 2-all tie on Nov. 2, 2003, and are 5-0-0

with one tie all-time against them in San Jose.

The Sharks won at Atlanta 4-3 in the only meeting last season.

Patrick Marleau had two goals and an assist, while Dany Heatley and

Joe Thornton also scored.

Thornton, who has goals in each of his first two contests this

year, has six with eight assists in his last eight games against

the Thrashers.

San Jose was tied for league’s third-best home record last

season at 27-6-8, and Antti Niemi is scheduled to make his first

start at HP Pavilion as a member of the Sharks. He made two starts

in San Jose last season in helping Chicago sweep the Sharks in the

Western Conference finals en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

Niemi, who made 23 saves in a 5-4 shootout victory for the

Blackhawks in his lone career start against the Thrashers on Feb.

13, will face four of his former Chicago teammates in Dustin

Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel. They were all

traded to Atlanta in the offseason.

The new-look Thrashers arrive in San Jose to conclude a

four-game road trip following a 5-4 shootout win over Anaheim on

Friday.

Trailing 4-2 with 10 minutes left in regulation, right wing

Anthony Stewart scored twice to complete his first career hat trick

and help the Thrashers avoid losing their third straight.

“If we’re down two or three it’s not that big of a deal,”

Stewart said. “We have a lot of veterans and a lot of young guys

that don’t know any better.”

It was an unlikely scoring outburst for Stewart, who had four

goals in his first 108 career games.

Chris Mason made his third straight start, and finished with 37

saves while turning aside all four shots in the tiebreaker.

Although this is his first season with the Thrashers, Mason has

also had little luck against the Sharks, going 1-7-2 with a 3.00

goals-against average in 10 career starts.