In the Crease: Sharks welcome Crosby, Penguins to Tank

In the Crease: Sharks remain intact at trade deadline

In the Crease: Sharks welcome Crosby, Penguins to Tank
March 6, 2014, 9:45 am
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Sidney Crosby has overtaken Joe Thornton as the league’s assist leader with 54, and his 83 points leads the NHL. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Penguins coverage gets underway on CSN California at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live

Where they stand
Sharks: 39-17-7, 85 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 5th Western Conference
Penguins: 41-16-4, 86 points, 1st Metropolitan Division, 1st Eastern Conference

The latest

Sharks: San Jose played its first home game after the Olympic break on Tuesday, losing to Carolina, 3-2 in overtime. The Sharks are 2-1-1 since the break ended, and will be playing in the second of a four-game homestand. Alex Stalock has started three of the last four games, and made 32 saves in Tuesday’s defeat, his second of the season to the Hurricanes. Marty Havlat and Brent Burns scored for the Sharks.

[RELATED: Crosby, Penguins searching for rare win in San Jose]

Penguins: In the second game of a five-game road trip, the Penguins held Nashville to just 19 shots on goal in a 3-1 win. The victory ended a three-game losing streak (0-1-2), and captain Sidney Crosby assisted on all three Pittsburgh goals, including two from defenseman Matt Niskanen. The Penguins’ trip continues in Anaheim tomorrow night.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: James Sheppard. Sheppard is making the most of his opportunity as third line center, and has one point in each of his last five games. His aggressive play led to Brent Burns’ first goal in 20 games on Tuesday against Carolina, and he assisted on the game-winner in New Jersey on Sunday with an outlet pass to Joe Pavelski springing an odd-man rush. He still has just two goals and 11 points in 48 games, but he’s currently playing his best hockey of the season.

Penguins: Sidney Crosby. The face of the NHL will be making his first on-ice appearance at SAP Center since 2009. Crosby has overtaken Joe Thornton as the league’s assist leader with 54, and his 83 points leads the NHL by a wide margin. After captaining Canada to a gold medal, Crosby has one goal and four assists in the last three games, including three helpers on Tuesday night in Nashville.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.87 (8th)
Goals-against per game: 2.36 (T - 6th)
Power play: 17.0 percent (20th)
Penalty kill: 84.3 percent (7th)

Penguins
Goals per game: 3.13 (4th)
Goals-against per game: 2.43 (9th)
Power play: 24.9 percent (1st)
Penalty kill: 86.7 percent (2nd)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Matt Nieto
Raffi Torres – James Sheppard – Tommy Wingels
Marty Havlat – Andrew Desjardins – Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Jason Demers
Scott Hannan – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle


Antti Niemi
 (confirmed starter)
Alex Stalock

Penguins
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Taylor Pyatt – Brandon Sutter – Joe Vitale
Tanner Glass – Craig Adams – Chuck Kobesew

Rob Scuderi – Matt Niskanen
Olli Maatta – Brooks Orpik
Robert Bortuzzo – Simon Despres

Jeff Zatkoff (confirmed starter)
Marc-Andre Fleury

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery) and Brad Stuart (upper body) are out.

Penguins: Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), Beau Bennett (wrist), Pascal Dupuis (right knee surgery), Chris Connor (hand), Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (broken hand) are out.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks are 14-2-1-1 in their last 18 games against Pittsburgh, but got smoked in the most recent meeting, 5-1 on Dec. 5 at Consol Energy Center.

San Jose has not lost at home to the Penguins since Oct. 22, 1997 (9-0-1).

All-time, San Jose has a 15-11-1 mark against Pittsburgh with three ties.

Quoteable

“I’m glad we get to have another kick at the can, so to speak. We did some good things at the end of last year, and we brought up some good kids this year. I definitely happy with our locker room and I’m glad that people upstairs and people behind the bench believe in us, also.” – Dan Boyle, after the Sharks did not make any moves before Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline

Burning question

Is Sidney Crosby the best player in the NHL? Leave your answer in the comments section below.