In the Crease: Sharks continue road trip, eye Crosby's Penguins

Look ahead: Sharks battle Crosby, Penguins

In the Crease: Sharks continue road trip, eye Crosby's Penguins
December 5, 2013, 6:45 am
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All-time, the Sharks are 15-10-3-1 against the Penguins, and 14-1-1-1 in the last 17. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Penguins coverage gets underway today at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California

Where they stand
Sharks: 19-3-5, 43 points, 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference
Penguins: 19-9-1, 39 points, 1st Metropolitan Division, 1st Eastern Conference

Vitals
Sharks
Goals per game: 3.44 (2nd)
Goals-against per game: 2.15 (5th)
Power play: 19.0 percent (13th)
Penalty kill: 82.3 percent (16th)

Penguins
Goals per game: 3.00 (6th)
Goals-against per game: 2.28 (T – 8th)
Power play: 26.0 percent (1st)
Penalty kill: 85.5 percent (5th)

[RELATED: Kennedy excited to be back in Pittsburgh]

Probable lines
Sharks
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Tommy Wingels
Marty Havlat – Joe Pavelski – Tyler Kennedy
James Sheppard – Andrew Desjardins – Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brad Stuart – Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan – Jason Demers

Antti Niemi (confirmed starter)
Alex Stalock

Penguins
Forwards - TBD

Deryk Engelland – Brooks Orpik
Olli Maatta – Kris Letang
Simon Despres – Matt Niskanen

Marc-Andre Fleury (confirmed starter)
Jeff Zatkoff

The latest
Sharks: The Sharks kicked off a four-game road trip with a 4-2 win in Toronto on Tuesday. It was their sixth victory in a row. Mike Brown, Joe Thornton (power play), Brad Stuart and Logan Couture (empty net) scored for San Jose, and Antti Niemi made 28 saves.

Penguins: Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal, his second of the game, gave the Penguins a 3-2 win at Long Island on Tuesday. Pittsburgh captured its fourth win in a row, erasing a 2-0 first period deficit. James Neal also scored, and Evgeni Malkin had two assists.

Keep an eye on…
Sharks: Tyler Kennedy. The former Penguin, who scored the first-ever goal in Consol Energy Center history, will be playing against Pittsburgh for the first time. Kennedy had a knack for scoring big goals with the Penguins, as six of his 12 career postseason markers were game-winners. His 20 goals at Consol Energy Center is the sixth-highest total in the arena’s three-plus year history.

Penguins: James Neal. The forward may miss linemate Evgeni Malkin, who is out with a lower body injury, but Neal still has nine goals in his last 11 games after getting hurt in the regular season opener on Oct. 3 and missing more than a month. In 14 games this season, Neal already has seven multiple-point games, and has 12 points (6g, 6a) in 16 career games against the Sharks.

Injuries/Scratches
Sharks: Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery) and Adam Burish (back surgery) are out.

Penguins: Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), Rob Scuderi (ankle), Chuck Kobesew (lower body), Beau Bennett (wrist), Tanner Glass (broken right hand) and Paul Martin (broken tibia) are out.

Season/All-Time series
This is the Sharks’ second-ever visit to Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh appears in San Jose on March 6.

The Sharks have won three in a row against Pittsburgh, and the Penguins haven’t beaten San Jose since Feb. 11, 2009 – the final win of Michel Therrien’s tenure as their head coach.

In Pittsburgh, the Penguins are 2-0-2 in their last four against the Sharks, who haven’t won here since Jan. 30, 2002.

All-time, the Sharks are 15-10-3-1 against the Penguins, and 14-1-1-1 in the last 17.

Quoteable
“You’ve got to be aware of where he is. When I was playing against him, it was about not standing still, not being stationary. He’s one of those guys that can beat guys with his speed. You definitely don’t want to get caught standing still.” Dan Boyle, on facing Sidney Crosby

Burning question
Why has the Western Conference had so much success against the Eastern Conference this season?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.