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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins ready for Game 3 despite time change

Pittsburgh unfazed by recent trend of East teams struggling out West in Cup Final

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

SAN JOSE -- The declarative of "Go West!" has not been kind to Eastern-based teams in recent Stanley Cup Final history. The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to buck that trend Saturday in Game 3 against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

In the past decade, five Stanley Cup Finals have featured travel through at least two time zones to get to the home rink of the Western Conference team. Of the 16 games played outside the Eastern Time Zone in those five series, the home team has won 13 times. The Western team has outscored the Eastern representative 34-21 in the 16 games.

Teams traditionally deny the effect of the time change, suggesting that the stay of five days to play two games is not long enough to have a major impact on their body clock and that nutrition and proper sleep patterns can negate the hardships associated with time travel.

The Penguins took the same track after practice Friday.

"I think our strength and conditioning guys, our medical staff, does a great job as far as making sure that we do everything within our power to help them nutritionally and otherwise so that they can recover properly and fuel their bodies the right way," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think we're doing everything within our power to try to meet that challenge.

Pittsburgh defenseman Justin Schultz played the first four years of his career with the Edmonton Oilers, who play in the Mountain Time Zone and count on the time change as an advantage when playing teams from the East. He was traded to the Penguins on Feb. 27 and has not left the Eastern Time Zone since, but insists that the Penguins will be OK.

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"I don't think it will affect us playing the game," Schultz said. "It was nice that we got out here today. If we played today, that would have been a little bit different. We've had long road trips before and guys will figure it out."

History suggests differently as the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes (1-2 out West), 2007 Ottawa Senators (0-3), 2011 Boston Bruins (1-3), 2012 New Jersey Devils (1-2) and 2014 New York Rangers (0-3) can attest after their struggles traveling West for Cup Final games.

Pittsburgh, which leads the best-of-7 series 2-0, doesn't have to win a road game to win the Stanley Cup. But the Penguins don't want to extend the series longer than necessary and would prefer not to face a winner-take-all Game 7 if the home teams hold serve.

So the Penguins remain steadfast in their belief that they have the proper plan to battle the hardships the next several days. The two travel days, a luxury not always afforded to teams traveling West at this point in the season, is a game-changer, they say.

The Penguins flew from Pittsburgh to San Jose on Thursday morning. Friday afternoon, they held a high intensity practice at Sharks Ice, the practice facility of the Sharks. They won't skate Saturday morning because of the early start to the game.

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"I think you slowly try to turn your body over, hour-by-hour and day-by-day," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. "If you don't, you're tired in the third period and you are falling asleep. It also helps going back. You don't go full West Coast time. You try to find a happy medium." 

Most of the Penguins agree that they have gotten a break with the 5 p.m. local start in Game 3 because it keeps them on the 8 p.m. start on their body clock that they are used to.

"If the game started at 8 p.m., that would be hard because we would be sleeping in the third period," Schultz said.

But this is still a new experience for many of the players on this team.

Goalie Matt Murray said Friday that this is his first trip to California. Murray and fellow rookies Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl have never played a professional playoff game in California.

The Penguins not only have to deal with the time change, but they will also have to face a desperate Sharks team playing the first Cup Final home game in the 25-year history of the franchise.

It could be a recipe for disaster for the visitors, but the Penguins insist they are ready.

"We have to have a stronger mentality," defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. "We have to be laser-focused because they are a team that feeds off their crowd and I'm sure it's going to be packed and the fans are going to be going. For us, we have to be in check even more."

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