The San Jose Sharks have rebounded from early deficits twice already on this road trip, but they’re hoping a win will come a little easier Thursday.
The high-powered Sharks will try to get off to a good start and beat the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning for the fifth straight time as they continue their six-game trip.
San Jose’s opponent has scored first in each of the last six games, but the Sharks are still 4-1-1 in that stretch, posting back-to-back victories in New York over the Islanders and Rangers.
They trailed the Rangers 2-0 midway through the first period Monday night but bounced back with an offensive outburst in a 7-3 victory. Devin Setoguchi(notes) had two goals and an assist, while Patrick Marleau(notes) also chipped in with three points.
Buoyed by NHL assist leader Joe Thornton(notes) and the fast start of newcomer Dany Heatley(notes), San Jose (5-3-1) has averaged 3.5 goals per game. The Sharks, though, haven’t needed that many in recent matchups with the Lightning.
In four meetings between the clubs since the 2004-05 lockout, the Sharks have gone 4-0-0 and outscored Tampa Bay 17-4, including a 7-1 home win Jan. 13.
They also won 3-0 at Tampa last Oct. 25, with Boyle assisting on the first goal in his initial return to Tampa after the Lightning traded him to San Jose on July 4, 2008. Boyle spent five-plus seasons as one of the team’s top blueliners, notching 10 postseason points during the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Those times of prosperity are only a memory for Tampa Bay (2-3-2) as it sputters to another difficult start. Last season, coach Barry Melrose was fired after starting 5-7-4, and the Lightning finished as the league’s second-worst team.
They’ve been outscored 11-2 in their last two games, and coach Rick Tocchet said there could be some personnel changes if the problems continue.
“Yeah, I’m sure there will be if these guys have something hanging over their heads,” Tocchet said. “Yeah, I think (general manager) Brian (Lawton) will do it.”
Lawton and Tocchet had a brief closed-door meeting with the players after a 4-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“We seemed light on our sticks,” Tocchet said. “There are certain guys the past three, four games who are losing battles because they’re light on their sticks, and we’re going to have to get back to basics here, quickly.”
It’s unclear who will be in net for Tampa Bay. Antero Niittymaki(notes) took the loss against the Penguins, while Mike Smith(notes) is 0-2-2 with a 4.08 goals-against average after losing 7-1 at Ottawa last Thursday.
The Lightning can only hope a return home will help. They’re 2-0-1 at St. Pete Times Forum.