San Jose (AP) – After losing three of four, the San Jose Sharks are looking to get back on track. Joe Thornton’s return from suspension should help, as should facing the New York Islanders.
One week after a hit that earned him a two-game suspension, Thornton will be back on the ice Thursday night when the Sharks host an Islanders club mired in a deep slump.
Thornton, who leads San Jose (6-5-2) with 10 assists, hasn’t played since last Thursday at St. Louis, when he hit the Blues’ David Perron in the neutral zone. The Sharks got by without him Saturday when they beat Tampa Bay 5-2, but might have missed their captain’s presence in Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime loss at home to Anaheim.
“He’s a world-class player, we’ll take as many of those as we can get,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “I’m sure he would have helped.”
Thornton has certainly helped the Sharks beat New York in the past. The six-time All Star has 22 points in 21 games against the Islanders over the last nine seasons, including a goal and two assists in San Jose’s 4-1 victory on Long Island on Oct. 17, 2009, the last time these clubs met.
New York (4-9-2) has also lost its last three visits to San Jose and five of its last six games there.
Then again, few teams are requiring much help these days to beat the Isles, who are trying to avoid losing nine in a row in a single season for the first time since a 10-game skid Dec. 4-23, 2008.
The Islanders had been outscored 31-12 in their previous seven defeats, but at least kept the score close in Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss to the Ducks.
“I don’t know what it is about this streak that we’re on,” defenseman James Wisniewski said. “We just can’t find ways to score goals.
The Islanders allowed a season-low 14 shots to Anaheim. Dwayne Roloson stopped 13 of them, but that wasn’t enough for him to avoid dropping to 2-6-0 despite a 2.26 goals-against average.
“There’s a lot of things you can say – snake-bitten, unlucky, say whatever you want,” Roloson said. “It’s just the way things have been going.”
Things haven’t generally gone well for San Jose goalie Antero Niittymaki against the Islanders. He’s 4-8-1 with a 3.23 GAA versus New York, though he compiled those numbers for Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
Niittymaki stopped 17 shots in Tuesday’s defeat, which ended a personal string of six starts in which he’d allowed two goals or fewer. Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi supported him with goals, but it wasn’t enough to get the Sharks past the Ducks.
San Jose is 1 for 19 on the power play over its last four games, including an 0-for-4 effort versus Anaheim.
“We’ll watch some video tomorrow and work on it, simplify getting shots,” Setoguchi said Tuesday night. “We have to be better.”
Nine of Thornton’s 15 points this season have come with the man advantage.
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