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Red-hot Sharks head to Pittsburgh

by Brian Compton /
SHARKS (34-21-6) at PENGUINS (36-20-5)

TV: Versus, CSN-CA, Fox Sports-Pittsburgh.

Last 10: San Jose 8-2-0; Pittsburgh 4-5-1.

Season Series: This is the lone meeting between the teams. They haven't faced each other since Nov. 7, 2009, when San Jose cruised to a 5-0 victory at HP Pavilion.

Big Story: Wednesday marks the Pittsburgh debuts for forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen, who were acquired from the Dallas Stars on Monday in exchange for defenseman Alex Goligoski.

Neal, regarded by many as one of the top young power forwards in the game, is a three-time 20-goal scorer who ranked third on Dallas this season with 21 goals and fifth with 39 points. He is expected to begin his Penguins' career playing the left side on a line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.

"He's a big guy," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said of Neal. "He's not a lot different that Chris Kunitz. Maybe more of a goal scorer, a heavier shot than Chris Kunitz, a bigger guy than Chris Kunitz and maybe more of an offensive-zone presence. (Neal) can be a real force down low. So with Jordan, right now I could see them being a real formidable pair in the offensive zone. They're two guys that are real tough to handle, and Tyler Kennedy going along with them with his speed and work ethic and tenacity and his shot … I'd like to see that line do some damage."

Team Scope:

Sharks: San Jose is rolling, as it enters Wednesday's action riding a four-game winning streak. The Sharks moved into fourth place in the Western Conference with a 4-3 win at Detroit on Tuesday night. San Jose -- which has won 13 of its last 16 -- trails Phoenix by just one point for the Pacific Division lead.

"Every night's a playoff game," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "For some teams that's a great thing. We put ourselves in this situation, where we have to compete hard every night. We don't get the opportunity for a stinker. That may be a good thing for us."

Penguins: They've been hit hard by the injury bug, and it showed on Monday night when the Penguins were blanked in a 1-0 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Consol Energy Center. The loss trimmed Pittsburgh's lead on Washington for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference to just three points. The team that finishes fourth will have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I thought we created a lot of chances, a lot of opportunities," Staal said. "Obviously, their goalie did a pretty good job of keeping us from the second rebounds. But I think we did a lot of good things."

Who's Hot: Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi has 6 goals in his last four games. … Pens forward Brett Sterling has 5 points in six games since being promoted from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Injury Report: Sharks goalie Antero Niittymaki is out with an undisclosed injury. … Pittsburgh will be without Sidney Crosby (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (knee), Arron Asham (concussion), Kunitz (lower body) and Paul Martin (neck). Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey are both battling knee injuries and are questionable.

Stat Pack: Sharks center Joe Thornton scored the game's first goal Tuesday night, becoming the 18th active player with 300 goals.

Puck Drop: "Something like that happens every year, but every time it's always a shock. Obviously we lost a great guy in 'Goose,' and it's going to be tough not having him in the room and around the guys. But at the same time, I'm sure we picked up some good guys as well, and it's going to be a lot of fun in this final stretch." -- Pens center Jordan Staal on Monday's trade with Dallas

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