PITTSBURGH -- Carl Hagelin, playing in his fifth NHL season, already is a Stanley Cup Playoff veteran.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins forward plays the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), it will be his 96th postseason game since debuting with the New York Rangers in 2011-12. It's the most playoff games in that span by anyone in the NHL, one more than Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle, Hagelin's teammate with the Rangers for three seasons.
In his first four seasons Hagelin played in the Stanley Cup Final once and the Eastern Conference Final three times, but never was as close to winning the Stanley Cup as he is now. The Penguins lead the Sharks 3-1 in the best-of-7 series and can win the Cup with one more victory.
"It feels good at the moment," Hagelin said following the Penguins' 3-1 win in Game 4 on Monday. "But I don't think about it that way. We're up 3-1 and we're happy. Other than that we have to go home and get the next one."
Video: PIT@SJS, Gm4: Fehr nets Hagelin's dish for a 3-1 lead
The next one has been elusive for Hagelin. The Rangers reached the Cup Final in 2014 but lost in five games against the Los Angeles Kings. Last season the Rangers were one win from a second straight trip to the Cup Final but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning at home in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Hagelin, and as it turned out his time with the Rangers. It began what he called, "A crazy year."
Hagelin was traded to the Anaheim Ducks on June 27 for forward Emerson Etem, and he signed a four-year contract with Anaheim on Aug. 14.
But he had four goals, 12 points and a minus-10 rating in 43 games, and the Ducks traded him to the Penguins on Jan. 16 for forward David Perron and defenseman Adam Clendening.
The Penguins became his third team in eight months.
"It was a bit of a shock," Hagelin said. "Signing a four-year deal there and thinking you're going to be there for a while. But I came to a team with great guys and have enjoyed the ride."
Video: Carl Hagelin talks to reporters after practice
The Penguins have too.
Coach Mike Sullivan, who was an assistant coach with the Rangers during Hagelin's first two NHL seasons, had installed a system that allowed Hagelin to start using his speed again. In 37 regular-season games he had 10 goals, 27 points and a plus-18 rating. He also had six game-winning goals for the Penguins after having zero with Ducks.
Before the trade Pittsburgh was 20-16-7 (.546 points percentage). They went 28-10-1 (.731 points percentage) after the trade and finished second in the Metropolitan Division.
"He's been a huge key for this success," teammate Patric Hornqvist said.
When Hagelin joined the Penguins he played left wing on a line with center Evgeni Malkin and right wing Phil Kessel. When Malkin was injured March 11, Nick Bonino filled in and the "HBK Line" was created. In the final 13 games of the regular season, Kessel had six goals and eight assists, Hagelin had six goals and seven assists and Bonino had four goals and eight assists.
"[Hagelin] brings so much speed to that line," Hornqvist said. "Him and Kessel play really well together. They played with Malkin first and then Bonino came in and they got even better. He's been a really key guy."
The "HBK Line" is the Penguins' third line but it's been a driving force behind their deep playoff run. In 22 postseason games Kessel leads the Penguins with 10 goals and 21 points, and Bonino leads with 13 assists. Hagelin has five goals and 10 assists, including a Penguins-best three assists in four games in the Final.
Hagelin has found a home in Pittsburgh and it appears he's there to stay.
"I'm one of those guys who doesn't dwell on the past," he said. "I just try to focus on what's coming up next. I'm really excited to play on such a great team."
A team that is one win from the Stanley Cup.