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4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, February 21, 2019
PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  Attendance: 18,362

Penguins finding groove ahead of visit from Sharks

San Jose Sharks at Pittsburgh Penguins

  1. San Jose fell, 6-5 in overtime, to Boston on Monday and has taken points in eight of its last nine games. The Sharks have gone 14-4-1 (.763) since the start of the New Year -- third best in the NHL behind the Blues (.795) and Bruins (.773) -- and are averaging 4.16 goals per game in that span, second highest in the NHL (Blackhawks, 4.25).
  2. The Penguins won, 4-3, in New Jersey on Tuesday to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Devils. Pittsburgh has gone 16-8-1 (.660) against Western Conference opponents this season compared to just 16-13-6 (.543) against the Eastern Conference.
  3. The Penguins have taken points in eight of the last nine meetings with the Sharks in Pittsburgh, including a 5-2 win on January 30 last season. The Sharks took the first matchup this season, 5-2, in San Jose on January 15.
  4. Joe Thornton logged a hat trick in Monday's loss to the Bruins, his first hat trick since October 27, 2010. At 39 years, 231 days, Thornton became the oldest player to score a hat trick since Jaromir Jagr did so on January 3, 2015 at 42 years, 322 days.
  5. Joe Pavelski had a three-point night on Monday vs. Boston, scoring a goal and adding two assists. He's recorded a goal and an assist in each of his last two games and looks to do so in three straight for the first time in his career.
  6. Nick Bjugstad lit the lamp in the Pens' win over the Devils, his third straight game with a point and fourth in his last five. He has five points (2g, 3a) in his first 10 games since joining the Penguins on February 1 after tallying just two points (g, a) in his final 10 games with the Panthers.

The Pittsburgh Penguins might finally be figuring out who they are and how they need to play.

Entering Thursday's home game against the San Jose Sharks, the Penguins seemingly fluctuate nightly between being on the cusp of missing the playoffs and vying for the title in the tight Metropolitan Division, but they like what they've seen lately.

Pittsburgh (32-21-7, 71 points) has won four of its past five games. In particular, a 4-3 win Tuesday at New Jersey seemed to offer a good blueprint.

"When we talk about a team identity and how we're trying to play, and what does Penguins hockey look like, that's it," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We're defending up the ice with our puck pursuit, and it's a five-man unit and it's cooperative play.

"When we add the urgency that we played with, with the sense of purpose that we played with, we're hard to play against. That's when I think our team controls territory and we can spend a lot of time in the offensive zone."

The Penguins seem to have settled into a good groove with their personnel. All four lines clicked against New Jersey, yet there is competition for a couple of forward spots and at least one spot on defense.

"It's great for the team," said Pittsburgh winger Tanner Pearson, one of those who has been in and out of the lineup. "It's great to be in a competitive environment. It gives you more than it takes, for sure. It gets you more prepared. You have to stay in it, stay engaged."

San Jose (35-17-8, 78 points) has established itself as one of the top teams in the Western Conference, so the Sharks are more in the mode of refining their game. They are 6-1-1 in February and will be kicking off a four-game road trip through the Eastern Conference.

The Sharks are coming off 6-5 overtime loss Monday against Boston, including a rare Joe Thornton hat trick (against his former team), in a game where they fell behind 3-0 before clawing back.

San Jose, whose identity for years has included a strong defensive game, has scored five or more goals in four of its past six games, going 4-1-1, but the Sharks don't necessarily want to depend on piling up so many goals.

"We definitely have confidence we can score goals, but we don't want to get into track meets," forward Joe Pavelski said.

Another area of concern is a recent propensity to take too many penalties. San Jose killed just two of four Boston power plays and has been short-handed 32 times in eight games this month.

"We've got to clean that up," coach Pete DeBoer said.

Pittsburgh is 5 of 10 on the power play over its past three games and ranks in the top five in the NHL with a 24.8 percent success rate.

Sharks center Logan Couture called his team's infractions "just lazy penalties."

"When you're penalized (five) times in Winnipeg, (seven) times in Calgary, it's tough on guys that play the (penalty kill), that play a lot of minutes that are counted on to be good offensively as well," he added.

The Sharks beat the Penguins 5-2 Jan. 15 in San Jose in the teams' first meeting of the year.

DeBoer hinted that goalie Martin Jones will start at Pittsburgh.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 20, 2019

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