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Conor Sheary likely to remain healthy scratch for Penguins in Game 6

Second-year forward says benching was inevitable during playoff slump

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary knew it was only a matter of time until he was taken out of the lineup.

It came Sunday, when Sheary was a healthy scratch in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. He watched the Penguins defeat the Ottawa Senators 7-0 and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series with Game 6 at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"You want to be out there helping the team win, but when you're not playing your best, that's what happens," Sheary said. "I've kind of been slumping and not playing really well. It was inevitable that that was going to happen. Hopefully I can get back in and help the team win moving forward."

When the Stanley Cup Playoffs began, Sheary was first-line right wing next to center Sidney Crosby.

 

RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Senators series coverage

 

Sheary, 24, was fourth on the Penguins with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in his second NHL season, and had 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in his final 18 games of the regular season. 

It was assumed Sheary would continue at that pace throughout the playoffs. Instead, he has three assists in 15 games.

"I think it's a mental thing. I think it starts with my mindset," Sheary said. "I think I got in a slump there where I wasn't scoring, then I started thinking about it a little too much and was getting away from my game."

It's difficult to get past that mental block without playing, Sheary said.

"Sometimes you have to play to get through it," Sheary said. "I've had plenty of guys come up to me and tell me 'Let yourself off the hook a little bit and just play your game. You're a good player.' I mean, that side of it has really helped me. But I think [if] I'm able to play through it, I think that will be the best way out."

That might not be possible, though. The Penguins are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight year and will use the lineup they believe gives them the best chance to win.

"The window is very short right now," coach Mike Sullivan said. "That's just the reality of it."

Sheary understands.

"I was obviously upset that I didn't get to play [Sunday]," Sheary said, "but moving forward, I just have to be ready if my name gets called."

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