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Sharks, Penguins seek to rediscover prolific play

by Davis Harper

PENGUINS (41-16-4) at SHARKS (39-17-7)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 5-3-2; San Jose 5-4-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks. Chris Kunitz scored twice as the Penguins raced to a 5-1 victory on Dec. 4, 2013, at Consol Energy Center in their previous game.

Big story: Two of the NHL's top-six teams will look to rediscover their prolific play when they face off Thursday night. The 2014 Sochi Olympics featured multiple players from the Penguins and Sharks, and both teams have struggled to maintain form since the NHL season reconvened.

The Penguins have lost two of three, including a sound defeat in their 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks, while the Sharks have fallen to struggling Eastern Conference teams in the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres since the break.

Team Scope:

Penguins: The Penguins made a splash, albeit not the belly flop many were hoping for, at the NHL Trade Deadline when they acquired forwards Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames and Marcel Goc from the Florida Panthers in exchange for future draft picks. The trade that had the Steel City holding its breath, for Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, never came to pass.

"Our goal was to try to increase our depth up front and help our forward group, and I think with this second deal and with Goc we've accomplished that," general manager Ray Shero said. "That was our main goal, and I think with the [Pascal] Dupuis injury and with the Beau Bennett injury, it was important for us to try to do that."

Shero said both Goc and Stempniak were versatile forwards, which should come in handy on a team looking to fill out its top lines and special teams with wings.

Sharks: The Sharks stayed quiet at the deadline, with no deals made.

"We weren't going to sacrifice things, to make a change, just to look like we did something," general manager Doug Wilson told CSN Bay Area's Brodie Brazil.

In his press conference, Wilson referenced the Sharks' "reset/refresh" philosophy that San Jose implemented at the 2013 trade deadline. So far, the Sharks' reconfiguration has paid off, with San Jose (85 points in 63 games) biting at the Anaheim Ducks' heels for the Pacific Division and Western Conference lead.

After practice Wednesday, captain Joe Thornton told reporters "this team is as deep as we've ever had here."

Who's hot: Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has two goals and five assists over his past five games. Malkin has four points (two goals, two assists) in five career games versus the Sharks. … Sharks rookie goaltender Alex Stalock is 3-0-1 over his past four starts, with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

Injury report: For the Penguins, defensemen Paul Martin (hand) and Kris Letang (illness) are out. Forward Chris Conner (hand) is day-to-day, while Dupuis (knee) and Bennett (wrist) are out indefinitely. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun (pelvis) remains out. … Defenseman Brad Stuart (upper body) is day-to-day, and forward Tomas Hertl (knee) is out indefinitely.

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