|Veterans Crosby, Thornton highlight Penguins-Sharks game|
When Sidney Crosby entered the NHL as an 18-year-old in 2005, veteran Joe Thornton started a season that featured a major turning point in his career. More than 12 years later, they're still going strong.
Two of the league's hottest players face off for the first time this season when Thornton and the San Jose Sharks welcome Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to SAP Center on Saturday night.
San Jose (24-14-6), which is looking for its fourth win in five games, is coming off a 5-3 loss to the surging Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. The Sharks were down 4-0 early in the second period and clawed back within a goal before falling.
"We had probably three, four Grade-A chances to tie it up," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer told the NHL's official website. "We had a legit chance to tie it. We battled to the end, but you don't get points in the standings for that."
Despite the loss, Thornton extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with his 12th of the season. The 38-year-old -- whose comeback from a potentially career-ending knee injury less than a year ago is nothing short of astounding -- is on his longest such streak since March 13-18, 2007.
Should "Jumbo Joe" find the back of the net Saturday, it would be the third time in which he's had goals in five straight games and first since Feb. 8-March 3, 2006.
And with 1,424 career points, Thornton needs two more to pass Bryan Trottier and move into 16th place on the all-time scoring list. However, the top overall pick from the 1997 draft, who was acquired by San Jose in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Bruins in November 2005, has failed to get on the scoresheet in six straight regular-season games versus the Penguins.
Pittsburgh (25-20-3) is looking for its sixth win in seven games after Casey DeSmith made 28 saves for his first NHL win and Patric Hornqvist scored twice in a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
"(Smith's) been showing the whole year in practice how competitive he is and how good he can play, and finally he showed it here, and good for him and good for the whole team," Hornqvist told the league's official website.
Pittsburgh is going with Smith and fellow rookie Tristan Jarry while Matt Murray is out indefinitely following the death of his father on Tuesday. Jarry is 3-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .938 save percentage on the road this season, and has never faced San Jose.
Several Penguins are riding point streaks, including Hornqvist (three goals, one assist in three games) and Carl Hagelin (one goal, five assists in five games), but no player has been more productive recently than Crosby as the nine-time All-Star has three goals and 11 assists over his last six games.
Crosby, who's third on the team with 17 goals trailing only Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel (21 each), needs one more for 400 in his career. The two-time league MVP scored twice in Pittsburgh's last visit to San Jose, a 5-0 victory on Nov. 5, 2016.
The Penguins, who defeated the Sharks in six games for the Stanley Cup earlier that year, is in search of its fourth straight regular-season win in the matchup. Pittsburgh has outscored San Jose 13-3 during the streak with Malkin notching two goals and four assists.
Since blanking Los Angeles on Dec. 23, Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is 2-3-1 with a 3.34 GAA and an .887 save percentage. Backup Aaron Dell (10-3-2, 2.26 GAA, .925 save percentage, two shutouts) has won three straight home starts.
Pittsburgh defenseman Justin Schultz (two goals, 11 assists) is expected to play after leaving in the second period when his face was driven in the boards by a crosscheck from Kings defenseman Dustin Brown.
"I feel fine," Schultz told the Penguins' official website. "Everything went well out there, so I'm good to go. I was pretty nervous at first. Luckily, all the tests went well and a good day on the ice today. I'll be ready to go (Saturday)."