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Consistent Conor

Sullivan pleased with Sheary's play this year, especially with Crosby

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

In an ugly game filled with gritty goals, Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary combined to score two pretty ones.

In the second period of Pittsburgh's 8-7 overtime win over Washington on Monday at PPG Paints Arena, Crosby carried into the offensive zone and threaded a magnificent pass through three Capitals right onto Sheary's backhand - who tipped it perfectly into the net.

In the third period, Sheary returned the favor. From the goal line, he whipped the puck across the ice right to Crosby's forehand, who pushed it into the net. Those are just a couple examples of the chemistry those two have developed going back to last season.

"Plays open up and plays happen, he usually finds me and I try to do my best to find him as much as I can," Sheary said. "A lot of times he has the puck, good things happen. He creates offense in so many ways. I think just reading off him and trying to stick to my game as much as I can I think has just created a good chemistry."

The 24-year-old winger went on to score the game-winner, giving him two goals and an assist for a personal-best three-point effort. The OT score was a greasy one, with Sheary going straight to the net and digging for a puck under Philipp Grubauer's pad, getting it to slowly cross the goal line to give the Pens two points.

That ability to play both gritty and pretty is a big reason head coach Mike Sullivan and the rest of the coaching staff thought he would be a good fit alongside Crosby.

"Conor's been one of our most consistent forwards all year," Sullivan said. "He's relentless with his quickness, his speed, his pursuit of the puck, his second effort. I think he plays with a lot of courage. He goes to the battle areas. He's not afraid to get his nose over the puck.

"And he's a good playmaker. He sees the ice pretty well. He's got a pretty high hockey IQ. He's elusive in tight space. For all those reasons we thought Conor might be complimentary with Sid. And it's worked for Sid, it's worked for Conor, it's worked for our team."

Crosby praised both Sheary's speed and his ability to play bigger than he is at just 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds.

"He's got a lot of speed. He uses his speed really well," Crosby said. "He's gritty. I mean, he's not a big guy, but he goes to tough areas, works hard in the corners and goes to the net hard. I don't think you get to the NHL without having that mindset, especially at his size. But I think his speed really allows him to create a lot."

Learning to be consistent is probably the biggest takeaway Sheary had from last season, which he split between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh, playing 30 games in the AHL and 44 in the NHL before becoming a huge contributor during the Pens' Stanley Cup championship run.

"I came in with a lot of confidence this past year knowing that I was going to be here to start the season, and have a chance to stick throughout the year was motivation to play well," he said. "You're going to have lulls here and there but I think for the most part I've played pretty consistently."

Right now, Sheary has 13 goals in just 36 games, having missed seven games early in the year with an eye injury. And while he declined to give specifics, he did say he's on the right path towards accomplishing what he set out to do individually this season.

"I have goals for myself I set at the beginning of each year," Sheary said. "I think that's important. I learned that at a younger age to kind of individual basis on where you want to be at the end of the year. I'm not going to tell anyone about them because they're mine (laughs), but I think if I continue to play the way I'm playing, I think it'll be a pretty good year."

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