The San Jose Sharks have had to play from behind in each game of their current road trip. Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk is hoping to take advantage of those struggles as he tries to extend his hot start.
Kovalchuk and the Thrashers look to hand the Sharks their first regulation loss in the series Saturday night when the teams meet in Atlanta for the first time since 2007.
Kovalchuk has helped Atlanta (4-2-1) get off to a strong start. He's tied with Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the league lead with nine goals and also has one assist.
Most of Kovalchuk's production has come early in games. Six of his scores have come in the first period, including one of the two goals he scored in Atlanta's 5-4 loss to the Capitals on Thursday.
The Thrashers have scored 10 first-period goals this season -- tied for fifth-most in the league.
Kovalchuk and Atlanta will look for more early scoring opportunities against San Jose (5-4-1), which has been playing from behind early a lot recently.
San Jose has trailed in the first period of each of the first four games of a six-game road trip. It's 2-2-0 in those games after losing 5-2 to Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Evgeni Nabokov's inconsistency continued against the Lightning as he gave up three or more goals for the third time in four games. Though the Sharks overcame a 2-0 first-period deficit to win 7-3 over the New York Rangers on Monday, Nabokov didn't get much offensive support in Tampa.
"We're just not playing the full 60 minutes," said Danny Boyle, who scored along with Ryan Vesce. "We're making some mistakes and they're costing us goals."
Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, who have eight goals and 19 assists between them, were held to one assist while both failed to get a shot off Thursday. Heatley has two points during the road trip.
"Once again our start isn't the way it should be, so as a coach I'll have some questions to ask some of the leaders," coach Todd McLellan said. "We'll be looking for some answers."
Heatley will try to bounce back in Atlanta, where he played for three seasons. He's been held without a point in his last three meetings against his former team. Overall, Heatley has eight goals and eight assists in 16 career games against the Thrashers.
While Nabokov struggled in his last game, Atlanta's goaltender had an even rougher outing against Washington. Ondrej Pavelec, who came in having allowed three goals in his previous two starts, was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots, including three in a an 88-second span in the second period.
"It was a mercy pull," coach John Anderson said. "Ondrej was rattled. The whole team was rattled."
Atlanta, which fell 2-1 in a shootout at Montreal on Tuesday, has lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
If history is any indication, the Thrashers could have a hard time getting back on track against the Sharks. San Jose has won four straight over Atlanta and is 8-0-1 with two ties in the series.
Kovalchuk has been held to one goal and two assists in eight games against the Sharks.