The San Jose Sharks have been shut out in their last two games. Now with captain Joe Thornton out of the lineup, their struggling offense takes yet another hit.
San Jose hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night without its leading scorer after Thornton received a two-game suspension Friday for a hit to the head on St. Louis' David Perron.
In the second period of a 2-0 loss Thursday against the Blues, Thornton received a major penalty and game misconduct after hitting Perron in the neutral zone. Thornton had just come out of the penalty box and Perron didn't appear to see him before getting hit. Perron was slightly shaken, but he returned to score St. Louis' second goal.
Thornton, who has 15 points in 11 games, missed the final 34:31 and will be eligible to return Thursday against the New York Islanders.
"I felt like I established myself on the ice," Thornton said. "I just braced myself for the hit. He just ran into me, to be honest with you."
With Thornton out, San Jose's sputtering offense is in dire need of a boost. The Sharks attempted a season-low 25 shots against the Blues, and their scoreless stretch is at 144 minutes, 43 seconds.
San Jose has been shut out in its last three road games, but it hasn't seemed to have trouble scoring at home. The Sharks scored five goals each in wins against New Jersey and Anaheim in their last two games at HP Pavilion.
"It's been kind of all or nothing," forward Joe Pavelski said. "We have to figure it out. We're offensively challenged right now."
Antti Niemi dropped to 1-4-0 with a 3.90 goals-against average Thursday. Niemi has been a disappointment since being signed in the offseason from Chicago, where he won the Stanley Cup and went 26-7-4 with a 2.25 GAA in the 2009-10 regular season.
The Lightning (7-3-2) are ending a four-game road trip having lost their last two. They've managed five goals in the first three games.
Mike Smith made 25 saves and lost his first game of the season Thursday, 1-0 to Los Angeles. The loss dropped the Lightning from the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
"That was a playoff game, and nobody was going to give each other an inch," coach Guy Boucher told the NHL's official website. "There wasn't much out there for either team. It was going to be (a loss) for who made that mistake, and we made that mistake."
Steven Stamkos was held scoreless for the first time in eight games but still leads the NHL with 20 points.
"It was pretty intense for a game against a team you only see once a year," Stamkos said.
Stamkos scored two goals in a 5-2 home win last season as Tampa Bay ended a five-game winless streak in this series. The Lightning, who were 0-4-0 with a tie over that stretch, are 1-5-0 with a tie in their last seven visits to San Jose.
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