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The Inside Scoop: Game Day (Pens vs. Sharks)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Good afternoon from San Jose. Tonight the Pens will open their West Coast swing against the San Jose Sharks in a rematch from the contest a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh.

The Sharks have won 7 of their last 8 games, which includes a perfect 6-0 road trip on the East Coast in that stretch. During that trip, the Sharks scored a 3-1 victory over the Pens with Paul Martin scoring a goal against his former club. The Pens are coming off of back-to-back losses in extra time with an OT loss to Columbus and a shootout loss to Edmonton over the past weekend.

The Pens are looking to exact some revenge against the Sharks tonight. Which would be a break from history. The Pens haven’t won in San Jose in 18 years. Their last victory in the SAP Center was a 5-2 win on Oct. 22, 1997. They’ve gone 0-9-3 since in San Jose.

The Pens will make one lineup change against the Sharks. Defenseman David Warsofsky will make his team debut on the blue line, in place of Adam Clendening.

“He’s a good skating defenseman, moves the puck really well,” head coach Mike Johnston said of Warsofsky. “He can quarterback the power play. Those are some of his strengths.”

Warsofsky was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 19. He had 6 points (2G-4A) and a plus-5 in 13 games this season with WBS, including notching points in 5 of his last 7 games before being recalled.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound blueliner is excited the make his Pens debut.

“I’m obviously excited to play,” Warsofsky said. “I’ll move the puck up to the forwards. There’s a skilled group here, and take care of things defensively and contribute as much as I can.”

Warsofsky worked the point on the Pens’ second power-play unit at the team’s morning skate and hopes to contribute on the man-advantage.

“Down in Wilkes I was on the power play,” he said. “Being a smaller guy I don’t kill a lot of penalties, but I can contribute on the power play if need be.”

The Pens have shuffled their forward combinations in the hope of sparking some offense. While the line of David Perron-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel are producing, the Pens haven’t gotten much from the rest of their forwards.

And while it’s good to have the big boys going, the Pens are going to need more help from the bottom-6. That’s obviously something they’re trying to do.

“We’re trying,” center Nick Bonino said. “They just haven’t gone in this year for a lot of us. We have to make sure we get into their end, like we have been, and the goals will come.”

In the new configurations, Bonino will work with Beau Bennett and Patric Hornqvist. It’s a trio that has worked together before and seemed to have a good feel for each other.

“It switches it up a little, we’ll have two righties on the wings,” Bonino said. “But they’ll work hard and go to those tough areas and get pucks back.”

While the third line hasn’t been able to chip in as much offensively as they would like, they have been solid on the defensive front. It’s no doubt their biggest strength. And Bonino said the key is trying to find the balance between pushing for some offense while maintaining that defensive responsibility.

“It’s a fine line between cheating and making sure we’re good (defensively),” Bonino said. “I think we can take a couple more chances, break out a little quicker and hopefully we’ll be on the rush together.”

One of the biggest areas of concern for the Pens tonight is handling the Sharks defensive unit. They are big and nimble, and like to jump into the play. In fact, all three goals in San Jose’s 3-1 win in Pittsburgh came from Sharks D-men (Brent Burns with two and Paul Martin with one).

“We’ve got to make sure we get out on their point shooters,” Johnston said. “Their defense got a lot of pucks through. We have to make sure we take that away.”

Another area of the game the Pens need to be aware of is the start. The Sharks love to open games with a lot of energy and jump. Pittsburgh must either weather that storm and respond, or come out strong themselves to start.

“They pride themselves on coming out of the gate and almost winning the game in the first 10 minutes,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “They do their best to knock teams out in that first 10 minutes. They always have a hot start. You really have to be ready for it from the drop of the puck.”

Johnston hinted that defenseman Olli Maatta (upper body) may be back in the lineup in either of the team’s back-to-back matchups this weekend against Anaheim and Los Angeles, as long as his contact sessions in practice go well this week.

“(Maatta has) had contact after practice, not contact in practice,” Johnston said. “His key practices will be the ones in LA to get himself ready and see where he’s at if he’s going to play in one of those two games on the weekend.”

Maatta, who took part in non-contact practice with his teammates on Monday, has missed the past five games after being hit awkwardly into the boards by Nino Niederreiter Nov. 17.

The Pens will be facing former teammate Paul Martin for the second time this season. Martin and the Sharks got the better of the Pens in Pittsburgh with a 3-1 win. To make the victory even sweeter, Martin chipped in offensively with a goal and assist.

“Any time you can win and put a couple points on the board it makes it that much better,” Martin said. “It was a good team effort for us to get the two points. It’s always a better feeling when you come back into the old building.”

Where: SAP Center
When: Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins radio network
Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop
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