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Havlat to make debut for struggling Sharks against Devils

The struggling San Jose Sharks hope they can get things going in the right direction when they begin a lengthy road trip tonight by battling the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

The Sharks are 1-3-0 on the year and have lost three straight since slamming Phoenix, 6-3, in their season and home opener. San Jose will now face a stretch of six straight on the road after beginning the campaign with three of four tests on home ice.

The Devils, meanwhile, have won three straight after getting shut out by Philadelphia in their home and season opener. New Jersey should also be well- rested for tonight, having been idle since posting a shootout victory in Nashville on Saturday.

New Jersey has also taken four of five and eight of its last 10 meetings with the Sharks. San Jose has lost five in a row in New Jersey and last won in the Garden State on Nov. 14, 2000.

San Jose hopes to get a boost from the debut of winger Martin Havlat tonight. Havlat was acquired this summer in the trade that sent fellow winger Dany Heatley to Minnesota, but he has missed all four games so far while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Havlat has been cleared to play tonight and is expected to skate on San Jose's second line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. The 30-year-old Havlat recorded 62 points on 22 goals and 40 assists with the Wild last season.

"I just want to help the team to win," Havlat told his club's official website. "It's going to take some time. It's my first game with a new team, new linemates and a new system, but hopefully it'll go quick."

Tonight also marks the 1,000th career game for San Jose captain Joe Thornton. The 32-year-old was selected by Boston with the first overall pick of the 1997 draft. Thornton is the second player from that draft year to reach 1,000 games, joining Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau, who reached the milestone last year.

Thornton has just one assist in four games this year, but his 1,002 career points since making his debut with the Bruins on Oct. 8, 1997 are the most in the NHL over that span.

The Sharks were unable to use the return of goaltender Antti Niemi to secure a win their last time out, as San Jose was dealt a 3-2 regulation loss visiting Anaheim on Monday.

Niemi made 19 saves in his first action of the season after having a cyst removed from his knee in training camp. Niemi, who helped lead Chicago to a Stanley Cup title in 2010, went 35-18-6 with a 2.38 goals-against average in 60 games for the Sharks last year.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns, who like Havlat was also acquired from Minnesota in a trade this offseason, scored the goals for San Jose.

"We're moving the right way but we're not getting the results that we want," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "When the puck starts going in for us it will turn."

San Jose, which will face Boston, Nashville, Detroit and both New York teams during this trip, was 23-14-4 as the visiting team last season. The Sharks are 0-1-0 on the road so far in 2011-12 after dropping a 1-0 decision in Anaheim last Friday.

The Devils will play their second straight game without goaltender Martin Brodeur tonight, as the future Hall of Famer is dealing with a right shoulder injury. Brodeur will miss at least the next two games and it's still uncertain if he will join the club when they leave for a four-game road trip that begins Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Johan Hedberg led the Devils to a win in their first game without Brodeur, as he made 29 saves through overtime and stopped both of Nashville's shootout attempts. Ilya Kovalchuk's goal in the first round of the shootout was the decisive score in New Jersey's 3-2 comeback win.

Nashville held a two-goal lead entering the final period, but goals by Kovalchuk and David Clarkson sent the game into overtime. Zach Parise added a goal in the second round of the shootout, while both Cal O'Reilly and Matt Halischuk failed to get the puck past Hedberg.

Hedberg is expected to get the start again tonight over rookie Keith Kinkaid, who served as the backup on Saturday. The rookie Kinkaid has yet to see action in an NHL game.

New Jersey defenseman Adam Larsson is expected to play tonight after injuring his foot in the Nashville game. Larsson, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft, has yet to record a point in four NHL games.

The Devils are 2-1-0 as the host this year after going 22-16-3 at the Rock in 2010-11.