Winless Islanders welcome in Sharks
SHARKS (3-3-1) at ISLANDERS (0-2-3)
This is the only meeting between the teams this season. On Jan. 3, San Jose earned a 5-3 win against the Isles at HP Pavilion. The Sharks peppered Joey MacDonald with 47 shots that night.
Despite the preseason acquisition of sniper Dany Heatley
, the Sharks -- last season's Presidents' Trophy winners -- are off to a mediocre start. They've mustered only one goal in their last two games against Phoenix and Washington, respectively. San Jose was blanked on home ice in Monday's 1-0 loss to the Coyotes.
Discipline was a big problem for San Jose during Thursday's 4-1 loss at Washington. The Sharks spent most of the first period in the penalty box, as they were handed five penalties in the first 18 minutes. Twice during that opening period, the Capitals were handed two-man advantages. It was not the way the Sharks were hoping to start their six-game road trip.
"We were dead," Sharks center Joe Thornton
admitted. "It's too much to ask for guys to penalty kill for that long a time."
Nothing has gone right for the Isles since blowing that 3-0 lead in the final 8:01 last Saturday in Boston, a game they ended up losing in a shootout. In their two games since, the Islanders -- 6-3 losers at Buffalo on Friday night -- have come away with zero points and remain winless in 2009-10.
"Our guys, they didn't lay down and die," coach Scott Gordon said after the game against the Sabres. "We got ourselves in a pretty big hole, being down 4-0, made it 4-2 and 5-3, but it was too deep a hole for us to get out of."
Thornton is off to another solid start in San Jose, as the big forward has 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists) in seven games. Heatley has also felt comfortable with his new team, tallying 5 goals and 5 assists. Two of his goals are game-winners.
Isles rookie John Tavares -- the first selection in the 2009 Entry Draft -- recorded at least a point in each of his first three games before being held off the score sheet in Monday's 2-1 loss to Los Angeles. He regained his scoring touch on Friday night with his third goal of the season at Buffalo. Kyle Okposo, one of the up-and-coming forwards in the League, has a five-game point streak (1-4-5). Matt Moulson, a childhood friend of Tavares, also has three goals.
Sharks center Joe Pavelski
(foot) is expected to miss another week to 10 days after blocking a shot on Oct. 3. He required minor surgery to repair the damage. Torrey Mitchell
, another center, is out due to tendinitis in his left knee. His return is unknown, although he has resumed skating.
Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro (knee, hip) continues to make progress and has begun participating in drills. Frans Nielsen (knee), arguably the team's best skater and third-line center, is likely another week away from returning. RW Trent Hunter (torn pectoral muscle) is out until early November.
It appears as if Evgeni Nabokov is going to carry another monstrous workload this season. The Russian goalie has started all seven games for the Sharks and is 3-2-1 with a 2.88 goals-against average and a shutout.
Islanders coach Scott Gordon is begging young center Josh Bailey to shoot the puck more. Bailey, the team's first-round draft choice (No. 9) in 2008, has recorded only five shots on goal in five games. He had 25 points last season after making the team out of training camp.
"We talked before the L.A. game (on Monday) … he had one shot in three games," Gordon said. "Richard Park had 11 shots and John Tavares had 10 shots. They pretty much have the same amount of ice time, and he's only producing one shot. To his credit, he's very unselfish with the puck. He's got to keep the opposition honest."
Islanders GM Garth Snow hasn't made any public statements as of yet, and granted it's Year 2 of a rebuilding phase, but his team needs to win a game sooner or later. Should the Isles fail to pick up their first victory of the season on Saturday night, one has the right to at least wonder if some type of change is on the horizon.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com