The Pittsburgh Penguins, who host San Jose on Sunday, will be trying to emulate the Sharks’ results coming out of a long layoff.
San Jose has played two games, both wins, after a break because of postponements and the NHL’s holiday shutdown, while Pittsburgh will be playing its first game since Dec. 19.
The Penguins might need to jog their memory to recall what they were doing before games came to a halt, but it’s a good memory. They reeled off seven straight wins before the break despite missing several players to injury.
Now they have been dealing with their first COVID-19 outbreak since November — eight players have gone into protocol in the past week, including No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry — but four of them have already cleared, and could be available Sunday in light of the league’s switch to five-day, rather than 10-day, self-quarantines in some cases.
Jarry had not cleared as of Saturday, so Casey DeSmith is the likely starter.
In addition, Pittsburgh could have its top line together — left winger Jake Guentzel, center Sidney Crosby and right winger Bryan Rust — for just the seventh game this season and for the first time since Nov. 24.
All three have missed games at times, with Rust out the past 11 because of an undisclosed injury and Guentzel out the past five games because of a broken knuckle on his right hand.
“They’ve been such an impact line for us for so long,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re anxious, looking forward to the opportunity to get the three of them in the lineup together.”
Guentzel leads the Penguins with 15 goals and 27 points in his 24 games. Crosby has just four goals but 18 assists in 18 games. Rust has two goals and nine points in 12 games.
“We know when we’re playing well can be a really good line in this league,” Guentzel said.
The Sharks, meanwhile, had lost two straight and three of four before the postponements hit. They came out of the 12-day layoff with a wild 8-7 shootout decision against Arizona on Tuesday and a 3-2 overtime win against Philadelphia on Thursday.
“We were way better in the details and the (defensive) zone, and we even got more (scoring) chances,” said Thomas Hertl, who provided the overtime winner against the Flyers.
Those two disparate wins came at home. Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh kicks off a four-game road trip through the East.
The Sharks are hoping to build off the wins and get back above the playoff cutoff in the West. They are two points behind fourth-place Edmonton.
“Losing a couple at home before you get a break, it’s a long time to sit with that,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “So it was nice to get two wins out of the gate.
“We know we have a tough road trip, but we want to stay in this. Claw back, and we’re right there.”
The Sharks got back winger Jonathan Dahlen from COVID-19 protocol for Thursday’s game, but defenseman Mario Ferraro entered the protocol.
Ferraro leads the NHL with 93 blocked shots and is a top San Jose penalty killer.
–Field Level Media