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Pittsburgh vs. San Jose Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (12-4-0-24) vs. San Jose Sharks (11-4-2-24)

Where: HP Pavilion at San Jose
Saturday, November 7, 10:30 p.m.
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
Pittsburgh and San Jose will meet just once in 2009-10 after playing twice last season. The two teams split the series a year ago, with each posting a 2-1 victory on home ice. The Penguins’ 2-1 victory on Feb. 11 at Mellon Arena was sealed by a game-deciding shootout goal from Sidney Crosby.




Last Meeting: Feb. 11, 2009
PIT 2, SJ 1
Game Highlights
AP Recap

Faceoffs: Part of the reason for the Penguins’ third-period struggles against Los Angeles Thursday was the Kings’ ability to possess the puck following faceoff wins. Pittsburgh will need to bring their A-game with them on draws against the Sharks because San Jose features four of the league’s top 11 faceoff leaders in Scott Nichol (64%), Patrick Marleau (57.3%), Joe Thornton (57.1%) and Manny Malhotra (56.2%).

Crowd Control:
Thanks to a raucous fan following, HP Pavilion is one of the toughest opposing venues in the National Hockey League. Although the Sharks have played there only five times in ’09-10, they are 4-0-1 when they do. A quick start to keep the fans subdued and the Sharks’ energy level down would benefit the Penguins.
Year after year the Sharks continue to be one of the top teams in the NHL during the regular season before bowing out of the postseason sooner than projected. Last season the Sharks won their first Presidents’ Trophy after setting a club record with 53 wins, but they were bounced from the playoffs in a six-game opening-round loss to the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks. San Jose is off to another fine start in ’09-10, as they are tied with the Penguins and Colorado Avalanche for the most points (24) in the league through Friday.

Todd McLellan had one of the best rookie seasons by a head coach in NHL history in 2008-09, winning the second-most games (53) ever by a first-year coach while being named one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Award. Prior to arriving in San Jose, McLellan spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, helping lead them to a Stanley Cup championship in ’07-08.
San Jose made a major splash during training camp when they sent former Rocket Richard winner Jonathan Cheechoo and emerging power forward Milan Michalek to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley. The Sharks hope the sniper is the missing piece to take them on a deep postseason run. A threat to tickle the back of the twine from all areas of the offensive zone, Heatley led the Senators with 39 goals in ’08-09. He has proven to be a great fit thus far with Joe Thornton in Northern California, scoring 10 times and recording 18 points through 17 games.

Hoping to add more grit to their checking lines the Sharks signed two of the league’s better sandpaper-types in Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra. Nichol might be one of the most anonymous players in the league to have played 434 NHL games. He has never scored more than 10 goals or 18 points, but he shadows opposing team’s top players and currently sits second in the league winning 64-percent of his faceoffs. Malhotra comes over from Columbus where he registered a career-high 35 points (11G-24A) for the Blue Jackets in ’08-09. 
San Jose’s forwards possess one of the best mixtures of size, speed and skill in the entire NHL. Former Art Ross Trophy winner Joe Thornton sets up the attack for the Sharks as one of the game’s premier playmakers. Thornton is off to another fast start in ’09-10 centering Ryan Clowe and Dany Heatley with 21 points (4G-17A) in 17 games. His 17 assists lead the league. Clowe struggled finding his game early in the campaign after signing a lucrative contract in the offseason. The burly forward has found his groove with five points (1G-4A) in his past five games. He is coming off a season where he recorded career highs across the board in goals (22), assists (30) and points (52).

Former first-round draft pick Logan Couture has recently begun to make an impact after getting recalled from Worcester due to the rash of injuries suffered by the Sharks. The ninth-overall selection in the 2007 draft scored his first NHL goal against Chris Osgood in the Sharks’ shootout loss to Detroit on Thursday night. Couture finished with 87 points (39G-48A) with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League last season. Another rookie making a splash is Benn Ferriero, a Boston College product. Seeing minutes on the second line with Patrick Marleau and Manny Malhotra, Ferriero has four points (2G-2A). 
San Jose got a steal when they acquired Dan Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lightning during last offseason. Boyle headlines a quality group of puck-moving defenders for the Sharks, playing almost a rover position with his ability to jump into the offensive attack. Boyle, a smooth skater with moves that rival those of most forwards, is second behind Tomas Kaberle with 14 points (2G-12A) through the first 17 games. The quarterback of the Sharks’ power play, Boyle had a career year in 2008-09, setting personal highs in goals (16) and points (57).

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is in his fourth season with the Sharks despite not turning 23 until the end of March. Vlasic is a two-way defender who plays a game very similar to that of Kris Letang. His 36 points (6G-30A) last season were a career high. Kent Huskins, acquired from Anaheim at last March’s trade deadline, and Douglas Murray make life miserable for opposing forwards with their size and grit. Rookie Jason Demers, only 21, has been a great complement to Boyle as a source of offensive production, as his 10 assists rank him second behind the New York Rangers Michael Del Zotta in points by a rookie blueliner. Demers has posted a solid plus-7 rating.
Since taking over as the Sharks’ go-to netminder nine seasons ago, Evgeni Nabokov has given the Sharks both quality and durability between the pipes as he has appeared in 50 or more games in seven of his eight full seasons, winning at least 30 games on five separate occasions.

Great at controlling rebounds and adept at playing the puck, Nabokov has been especially great the past three seasons for the Sharks, following a career-high 46 wins in ’07-08 with 41 more last year. He is currently locked a in a four-way tie which includes Marc-Andre Fleury for the league lead with 10 wins this campaign. His current .921 save percentage ties for the best mark of his career. 

Rookie Thomas Greiss replaces dependable Brian Boucher as the backup. Greiss has spent a majority of the past three seasons with Worcester of the American Hockey League, where he won 30 games in ’08-09. Greiss is 1-1 with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage this year.
Patrick Marleau lost the captaincy prior to this season, but instead of pouting he has responded with the fastest start of his career. Through Friday’s games, Marleau ranks third in the scoring race with 22 points (11G-11A) in 17 games. He had his nine-game point streak (6G-10A) snapped on Thursday night.

One of the game’s fastest players, Marleau has a unique blend of size and skill. He was drafted second overall to current teammate Joe Thornton in the 1997 NHL Draft held at Mellon Arena. He is coming off a season where he scored a career-best 38 goals. In 888 career games, the 30-year-old Marleau has 632 points (287G-345A).
San Jose has been able to stay near the top of the NHL standings despite several long-term injuries to three key offensive players. Dynamic right winger Devin Setoguchi has missed the past six games with a lower body injury. He had seven goals in 11 games prior to his absence. Second-line center Joe Pavelski, fourth on the Sharks with 59 points (25G-34A) in ’08-09, hasn’t played since undergoing a minor surgical operation to his left foot after blocking a shot Oct. 3. Checking center Torrey Mitchell, who missed all but the Sharks’ final four postseason contests last season following a broken tibia suffered during training camp, has yet to suit up this year because of tendinitis in his left knee. Captain Rob Blake was placed on injured reserve Thursday after suffering an apparent arm injury in Wednesday’s victory over Columbus.
"There's a reason they win. It's not because they have a lack on the talent. It's because they play the game the right way.”

– Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock to the San Jose Mercury-News on why the Sharks have been so successful the past few seasons.

51: The average number of wins for the Sharks between 2006-07 and 2008-09. With 11 wins through 17 games, the Sharks are on pace to hit that number again in ’09-10. 

Author: Jason Seidling

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