Sharks-Penguins Preview

Now that teams in opposite conferences are guaranteed two

meetings per season, the San Jose Sharks may not mind seeing more

of the Pittsburgh Penguins than they have in recent years.

San Jose seeks a seventh straight victory as it continues a

four-game road trip Thursday night against a Pittsburgh team that

won’t have Evgeni Malkin as it looks for a fifth consecutive

win.

The Sharks have faced the Penguins only 17 times over the last

15 years, going 14-1-1 with one tie in those contests. They’re

8-0-1 in the series since Pittsburgh’s 4-1 victory Nov. 23, 2002,

winning the most recent meeting 4-3 in a shootout Nov. 3, 2011.

The league’s divisional realignment brought an agreement that

Eastern and Western Conference teams will play on each other’s home

ice each season, meaning the Sharks and Penguins will get to see

more of each other.

San Jose (19-3-5) enters the latest matchup on quite a roll

after beating Toronto 4-2 on Tuesday. Joe Thornton scored and Dan

Boyle had two assists for the Sharks, who overcame a sloppy first

10 minutes to earn another victory.

They’ve scored at least four goals four times during their

streak.

“It was actually embarrassing for a little while how we were

playing,” coach Todd McLellan said. “At least we got our game

back.”

Boyle and Joe Pavelski earned an assist on Thornton’s

first-period goal, which came on a 5-on-3 advantage. San Jose went

2 for 22 on the power play in its previous six contests.

“It’s always nice winning your last home game before (a road

trip),” Pavelski said. “Definitely didn’t have our ‘A’ game

(Tuesday), but guys did a good job battling.”

The Sharks are 9-2-3 away from home and tied for the fewest

regulation road defeats in the league, though they’ll now face a

Penguins team that has won four straight at home.

Pittsburgh (19-9-1) has the most points in the East after

finishing a perfect three-game road trip by beating the New York

Islanders 3-2 in overtime Tuesday. Sidney Crosby scored the tying

goal with 12 minutes left in the third, then weaved through

multiple defenders to pot the winner unassisted.

“It was a highlight-reel goal and we1ll see it again I’m sure,”

coach Dan Bylsma said. “The work ethic, backcheck battle, wins the

puck, it didn’t look like good odds at that point in time. He cut

through the defense and that puck found a way.”

Crosby’s two goals were one more than he had over his previous

five games, though his 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) lead the

league by one over Malkin (seven goals, league-best 30

assists).

Malkin won’t be able to catch his teammate against the Sharks.

Pittsburgh announced early Thursday that Malkin was out with a

lower-body injury and is considered day to day.

The Penguins went 15-2-0 last season without Malkin in the

lineup.

Crosby and James Neal scored with the man advantage Tuesday as

the Penguins went 2 for 5 on the power play. They’ve converted 11

of 25 such situations over the team’s 6-1-1 stretch and lead the

NHL with a 26.0 percent success rate.

“The last couple games we’ve played some good hockey,” winger

Pascal Dupuis said. “We’re not giving the opponent too much.”

Marc-Andre Fleury has stopped 42 of 44 shots while winning his

last two starts, and he should be in net again for this contest.

He’s 1-2-2 with a 2.84 goals-against average in five career starts

against San Jose.

Antti Niemi has a 1.95 GAA while starting each contest during

the Sharks’ winning streak.