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NHL on NBCSN: Sharks host Penguins in battle of powerhouses

Mar 6, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT

Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy AP

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the San Jose Sharks host the Pittsburgh Penguins at SAP Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Sharks and Penguins are the virtual class of their conferences. Pittsburgh is the No. 1 team in the East with 86 points and San Jose is a top five team in the West with 85. If you needed something to illustrate the vast differences between the East and West you don’t have to look any further than that, but when these two face off tonight in California, those style contrasts go out the window.

Pittsburgh won the earlier meeting against San Jose this season, a 5-1 decision in December where Chris Kunitz scored twice and the other four goal scorers from that game won’t be suiting up tonight (Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang, Jayson Megna, and Tomas Hertl).

Things are a bit different for the Penguins this time around. Letang is out after suffering a stroke, Paul Martin is out with a broken hand, and Dupuis season is likely over after a knee injury. The basics are the same though. Sidney Crosby is still the best player in the game, Evgeni Malkin is still a terrifying handful, and Marc-Andre Fleury is holding things down in goal.

After breaking a three-game winless streak against Nashville on Tuesday night, the Penguins want to keep their road trip going in the right direction. Doing that against a Sharks team that’s won four of the past six games may be tricky.

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Since coming out of the Olympic break, the Sharks have had some head-scratching moments. They buried the Philadelphia Flyers 7-3 in Philly only to follow that the next night losing 4-2 to the NHL’s worst team, the Buffalo Sabres in Antti Niemi‘s first start since returning from Sochi.

That kind of inconsistency will make coach Todd McLellan’s eyes go crossed. San Jose’s hope to catch the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division race will need to see them pile up wins. They trail the Ducks by seven points, so if there are more of those aggravating losses, the division may be out of reach.

On the upside, Brent Burns broke his goal drought in their last game against Carolina and getting him going ahead of the postseason will do the Sharks a lot of good. Raffi Torres‘ return has seen him fill the net with three goals. Patrick Marleau has two goals in his past four games and 25 on the season.

It’ll be a star-studded display in San Jose between these teams and it’ll be on San Jose to show how they measure up in the grand scheme of things against the East’s top team.

  1. jdlinder11 - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    I don’t see the Penguins winning this one, unless those two acquisitions they made yesterday really make an immediate impact. That’s doubtful.

    • c9castine - Mar 6, 2014 at 5:20 PM

      Why not

  2. jpelle82 - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    highly doubt it will be 5-1 again, unless its the sharks putting up the 5. hoping the pens can pull the defense together on this roadtrip, the final score in the preds game hid a really piss poor effort by the blue line. simon despres is terrible

    • jdlinder11 - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      Despres looks really bad right now. Guy is just so inconsistent

      • jpelle82 - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        dont know whats going on with engelland, i really hope he would pencil in for this game instead. he’s at least consistent about being mediocre, you know what you’re gonna get with him and while its not great, he’s at least strong and you know he’s not going to make as many mistakes.

      • tss29 - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        He isn’t inconsistent. He is consistently bad. I wish we would have traded him last year when he stock was pointing in the right direction.

      • bobc74 - Mar 6, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        Of course Despres looks really bad. And he’s not going to get any better playing one game, benched for 2, sent down to WB/S, recalled to sit in the press box for a game, play one game, benched for 2, etc.

    • hockey412 - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      Not a Despres fan, eh?

      He’s had some bad games – he’s made some bad decisions (this has been since last year, he needs to work on this…so does Letang), and lately he’s been overly aggressive trying to win a job and doesn’t quite know how to do that…so he’s taking dumb penalties. I actually think he’s going to be fine, right now he’s in a spot where he’s in Bylsma’s washing machine, up/down/in/out/good/bad, etc. Seeing the same from Borts.

      I see Despres as the anti-maatta (not an intentional anti-matter joke). He’s got all the athletic ability and size he needs but needs to work on his intelligence. Maatta needs some size still but he’s so freaking smart. I think if Despres can just not be so freaking dumb he’ll be damn good.

      • jpelle82 - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        i think bortuzzo at least knows who he is and what he’s out there for. despres is trying to play like a tough guy, missing checks and getting outworked one minute and then the next he is turning the puck over trying finesse it out of the zone. i guess i’m agreeing with you in a way but i just see that he’s losing a lot of battles right now and the fundamentals are lacking. i dont think the 6th/7th man role is serving him very well at all and wish even if it was more for his sake that the penguins couldve traded him for something. pens couldve made a move for a nick schultz, robidas, even mike weaver wouldve been a good fit in my opinion – especially knowing letang isnt coming back and martin is up in the air.

      • c9castine - Mar 6, 2014 at 5:12 PM

        Joelle I was waiting for you to actually give some analysis on something and instead of just saying they suck…

        He has been doing some of that but consider what he’s been through…how about a few games to figure out what’s going on here after another long stint in the nhl and couple more scratchings. How to judge. He certainly has shown talent…I think bylsma and staff are waiting to see some mental maturity and toughness. That’s all that is holding him back it’s not his play.

      • hockey412 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

        I agree with you completely – quicker decisions, and better decisions, less risk.

  3. sjsharks66 - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Will be at the Tank tonight. Actually really excited to see Crosby play in person. Should be a good game!

  4. patthehockeyfan - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    I’m looking forward to losing sleep to see this matchup. Hoping for a great game!

  5. penguins87and71 - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    I don’t it might be a tough game tonight. Jeff Zatkoff since the Penguins play in Anaheim tomorrow night. I’m not to confident with Zatkoff in the pipes going into the shark tank. Does anybody know when Vokoun is coming back?

    • hockey412 - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      He’s 9-2-1 with a .909 in his first year in the league…and weighing that number down is his first game….what part of that makes you uncomfortable?

      • steelpenbucs87 - Mar 6, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        I don’t hate Zatkoff but go back and look WHO he’s played. Not exactly a challenging group.

    • jpdoc26 - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Zatkoff has played really really well. Just look at the numbers.

    • patthehockeyfan - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      Vokoun reportedly is on this trip with the Pens. I haven’t heard, though, if / when he’s scheduled to play.

    • Tyler - Mar 6, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      Not to pile it on, but..

      9-1 over his last 10. Take out his first two games and you’re looking at 2.10GAA and .926SV%. Not bad. Some of those weren’t exactly cupcakes either. At LA, at Detroit, Toronto, Islanders 2x.

      While he did have Letang and Martin in the lineup for some of those games, he’s played pretty well.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 6, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      i have no concerns with zatkoff, he has proven he can step in and win a game and the guys play well in front of him. they pick and choose his starts pretty well thus far but i recall him coming in and relieving fleury against the mapleleafs and he made some big saves and got the win earlier this year.

  6. penguins87and71 - Mar 6, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    I don’t know maybe because he hasn’t played a team as good as the Sharks! Look at who he’s played he played against NYI 3X, Columbus 2X, Edmonton, LAK, and DET. Not the hardest teams in the NHL. I want to see how he does if he plays tonight, if he plays well then great, but I will withhold my opinion on him until he beats a team that’s really good, like the Sharks. Until then I’m not sold on him.

    • dirt2013 - Mar 6, 2014 at 4:36 PM

      So if the Pens lose tonight 1-0 you can say I told you so?He’s been solid.End of discussion.

    • c9castine - Mar 6, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      Your the most negative person I have ever seen.

      He’s fine right now stop findings things to be worried about. Start calling you “penguins mom”

  7. csilojohnson - Mar 6, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    i would have to disagree. considering that the pens dont dress any defense against toronto and islanders. im comfortable with zatkoff.
    if despres cant find his game paired up with bort i dont think he will in pittsburgh. still am hopefull he can calm down and play the way he has in wilkes barre lately. should be a great game. hate that its on so late..

  8. penguins87and71 - Mar 6, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Yeah I can’t stand west coast games during the week, I love them on the weekend.

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