SAN JOSE SHARKS

Pittsburgh Penguins hunt for positives with San Jose Sharks up next

Mar 14, 2024, 6:24 AM | Updated: May 24, 2024, 4:41 am

Jacob MacDonald #9, Filip Zadina #18 and Luke Kunin #11 of the San Jose Sharks react with teammates...

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 12: Jacob MacDonald #9, Filip Zadina #18 and Luke Kunin #11 of the San Jose Sharks react with teammates after a goal by Zadina during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 12, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Optimism has pretty much given way to a philosophical approach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

Making the playoffs is such a long shot at this point that the Penguins are looking for smaller rewards — like, perhaps, winning a game. Any game.

And scoring a few goals.

Pittsburgh has lost four straight games (0-3-1) and seven of its past eight. There have been three shutout losses in that stretch, and the Penguins have scored just two goals over their past four games.

With 18 games left, Pittsburgh would have to go on quite a tear and climb over at least five teams to get into playoff position.

“I think just to stay with it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of what the team’s approach needs to be. “We can’t get discouraged, and we can’t look at kind of how far we are (down the standings).

“Sometimes it can seem daunting, but it doesn’t take much to turn the corner. So, hopefully, we can get a little momentum with one (win) and build from there. But at times like these, you’ve just got to stay with it. It’s the only thing we can do, is keep working. Got to keep fighting through it, and we’ll get rewarded eventually.”

Crosby, who leads Pittsburgh with 64 points, has carried the team most of the season but has gone quiet. He has no goals in nine games and one assist over the past six games.

The Penguins got a point Tuesday when they scored a last-minute goal in regulation but lost in overtime 2-1 at Ottawa.

Now Pittsburgh will face the last-place team in the NHL.

San Jose on Tuesday became the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention when it fell 3-2 at Philadelphia and Vegas beat Seattle.

While the Penguins are staring hard at missing the playoffs for the second straight year after a 16-year run of postseason appearances, the Sharks have failed to qualify for the fifth season in a row. These two teams met in the 2016 Stanley Cup final, with Pittsburgh prevailing.

The Sharks, too, are left grasping for motivation, especially after the team shipped off a handful of productive players before Friday’s trade deadline.

Their loss at Philadelphia left them on a 1-7-2 slide over their past 10 games and with just six road wins this season. They “overtook” Chicago for last in the league standings.

“Just do what we do,” San Jose winger Luke Kunin told the San Jose Mercury News. “I don’t think we change who we are as people, or who we are in the (locker) room.

“We all get to this point for a reason, and I think you’ve got to just do what makes you the best player, best person, best teammate, leader that you are and just hope that guys jump on board.”

One bright spot for San Jose has been its power play, which has produced 11 goals over the past seven games.

That includes two power-play goals from Filip Zadina on Tuesday for both of the Sharks’ scores, giving him a career-best 12 goals.

“He’s doing a much better job understanding how to score in this league,” San Jose coach David Quinn said.

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–Field Level Media

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