Penguins-Sharks Preview

The Associated Press

As the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't feel the need to make any dramatic changes at the trade deadline.

The San Jose Sharks didn't make any at all.

The Penguins may have their new acquisitions available Thursday night when they attempt to beat the Sharks on the road for the first time in over 16 years.

Pittsburgh (41-16-4) leads the East by three points over Atlantic Division-leading Boston and holds a commanding 14-point edge on Philadelphia in the Metropolitan Division.

That's partly why the Penguins opted to avoid making any major moves before Wednesday's deadline. Instead, they added depth with the acquisitions of veteran forwards Marcel Goc from Florida and Lee Stempniak from Calgary in exchange for draft picks.

"I think our goal was to try to increase our depth up front and help our forward group ... and I think we've done that," general manager Ray Shero said.

The deals may also allow coach Dan Bylsma to pair superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together in certain situations, potentially making one of the NHL's highest scoring teams even more imposing.

Pittsburgh averages 3.13 goals per game, thanks in large part to Crosby leading the league with 83 points while Malkin has 61.

"I think that we're comfortable with our team," Crosby said. "We know we need to play better as a group. That's up to us. That's something we feel is important. But that being said, I think the guys we have are confident. These guys are going to provide a lot of depth for us. They're good additions to our team."

Crosby has eight points in five games and set up all three goals as the Penguins ended a three-game skid with a 3-1 victory at Nashville on Tuesday. Malkin linked up with Crosby on one of those assists, which resulted in one of defenseman Matt Niskanen's two goals.

Crosby also had three assists in a 5-1 win over the Sharks (39-17-7) on Dec. 5, but he has just one point in three career visits to San Jose.

Malkin missed that matchup with a lower-body injury, but he had two goals and one assist in a 4-3 shootout defeat in the latest on the road Nov. 3, 2011.

Neither player has ever won in San Jose, with the Penguins going 0-8-1 with a tie there since a 5-2 victory Oct. 22, 1997. Ending that skid won't be easy with the Sharks ranking as one of the league's best home teams at 22-4-4.

San Jose, however, opened this four-game homestand with a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday. Despite the result, the Sharks were quiet at the deadline, content with a team all but assured of a 10th straight trip to the playoffs.

"I'm glad we get to have another kick at the can, so to speak," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We did some good things at the end of last year, and we brought up some good kids this year. I'm definitely happy with our locker room and I'm glad that people upstairs and people behind the bench believe in us, also."

Recently, San Jose has made additions in a different manner, with both Raffi Torres and Logan Couture returning from injuries.

Torres has three goals and one assist in three games since returning from an ACL tear, while Couture has three goals in four contests after missing 16 with an upper-body injury.

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