Penguins Will Ride NHL’s Top Power Play Past Sharks

Matthew Jordan

Monday, January 29, 2018 4:42 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 4:42 PM UTC

The NHL returns from its All-Star break Tuesday night with a nearly full schedule, and one of the marquee matchups is San Jose traveling across country to face Pittsburgh.

San Jose Sharks at Pittsburgh PenguinsFree NHL Pick: PenguinsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s a 7 p.m. ET puck drop from PPG Paints Arena as the Sharks and Penguins meet for the final time this season, and it’s nationally televised by TSN. Of course, these teams met in the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals, won by Pittsburgh in six games. That remains San Jose’s only trip to the Finals. The Penguins then repeated last season.

These clubs met in northern California on Jan. 20, a 2-1 San Jose victory. That was the Penguins’ third game in four nights after losing in Anaheim on Jan. 17 (5-3) and winning the next night at the L.A. Kings (3-1). That California Swing is always tough, especially for East Coast teams. Tom Hertl scored the game-winning goal on a power play 1:53 of the third. Brent Burns had two assists. Conor Sheary had the Pittsburgh goal and Sidney Crosby an assist. Casey DeSmith, a 26-year-old rookie, had 34 saves in the loss. Aaron Dell stopped 31 shots in the San Jose net.

The Sharks are 3-7 in the past 10 meetings overall and have won only two of their past seven in Pittsburgh.

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Sharks Lose Thornton To Injury

As we open the second half of the season, the two-time champion Pens (27-21-3) are tied for second in the Atlantic Division with 57 points, six behind leader Washington. That’s despite the fact Pittsburgh has the second-worst goal differential in the division at minus-6. The Pens are middle-of-the-pack in scoring even though they rank No. 1 with a power-play percentage of 27.1. Evgeni Malkin is tied with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead with 12 PP goals. Phil Kessel is fourth with nine of them.

Crosby had three assists in the final game before the break, a 6-3 home win over Minnesota. That jumped him past Jaromir Jagr for the second-most points in franchise history (1,082) and behind only team owner Mario Lemieux (1723). Crosby has 19 points over his last nine games and has 55 on the season, good for ninth in the league. Kessel leads the team and is third in the NHL with 58.

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Just Crosby things.

— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 26, 2018

It should be Matt Murray in next. He recently was away from the team for a few games after the death of his father. Murray is 15-12-1 in 31 games this season with a .903 save percentage and 2.93 goals-against average.

San Jose (48-26-15) is second in the Pacific Division, nine behind surprising Vegas. However, the Sharks are trending downward as they have lost two games in a row as well as one of their most important players, forward Joe Thornton, for an indefinite period. He had surgery last Thursday to repair the MCL on his right knee and will miss several weeks. The future Hall of Famer was still playing at a high level at age 38 with 13 goals and 23 assists. The Sharks only score 2.9 goals per game so this is the last thing they need.

It should be No. 1 Martin Jones in net even though his backup, Dell, has better numbers. Jones had been on the injured list with a lower-body injury. He’s 14-11-4 with a 2.68 GAA and .910 SV, but this month had allowed 14 goals on 121 shots, an .884 SV.

Pittsburgh has won five of its past six vs. teams with a winning record, while the Sharks are just 2-5 in their past seven against such a club. Take the Penguins on your Tuesday NHL pick.

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