It may have ended with a loss, but a stellar road swing has given the San Jose Sharks renewed confidence.
The Sharks hope to build on that successful trip and continue their dominance of the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.
San Jose (6-4-0) had dropped three in a row before winning the first five contests on a six-game eastern road trip. However, the Sharks concluded the trek with a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday - a reminder that they need to keep their focus if they want to remain a Western Conference power.
"The problem is you get on the plane and feel good about your trip, and you should somewhat, but you go home on a losing streak," said San Jose coach Todd McLellan, whose team allowed its most goals of the season. "I'm not overly pleased with what we threw out on the ice. We are a better team than that."
The Sharks have played much better in their series against Pittsburgh, winning 11 of the last 13 overall meetings and going 8-0-0 with a tie at home versus the Penguins since a 5-2 loss Oct. 22, 1997. San Jose won 3-2 in overtime at Pittsburgh on Feb. 23.
"We know the people they have, the arsenals they have there," coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins' official website. "They're a very good attacking team. They're very good at recovering pucks. They're a very dangerous team at all times."
Sharks leading scorer Joe Pavelski, who has three goals and an assist in five career games against the Penguins, scored six times and added all five of his assists this season during the just-concluded road trip.
Antti Niemi, who went 4-1-0 with a 3.56 goals-against average on the trip, is 2-0-1 with a 1.61 GAA against the Penguins.
Pittsburgh (8-3-2) had also won five in a row before falling 4-3 at Toronto on Saturday.
"We weren't able to play 60 minutes the way we should," defenseman Kris Letang said. "That's why we didn't get a win."
The Penguins hope banged-up stars Jordan Staal (lower-body injury) and Letang (undisclosed injury) will be able to play.
"I'm going game-time (decision on Staal and Letang)," Bylsma said. "See how they are in the morning and for the game. I'm hopeful that they'll be there for the game."
Letang has a team-high 10 assists and is tied with forward James Neal for the club lead with 11 points, but has failed to record a point in five career contests against the Sharks.
Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist in Saturday's loss to the Maple Leafs, giving him three points in the last two games.
Neal has a team-leading nine goals, but none in his last three games versus San Jose.
Pittsburgh is 5 for 18 on the power play over its last four games overall, but has gone 1 for 23 with the man advantage in its last seven against the Sharks - six losses.
After being given the night off Saturday at Toronto, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to be in net for Pittsburgh. Fleury has stopped 100 of 104 shots during a personal four-game winning streak.
He is 1-2-1 with a 2.86 lifetime GAA against San Jose.