Call it the Thursday tire pump.
In advance of tonight’s big tilt with the Sharks, Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma offered some high praise to the visitors from San Jose.
“With all due respect to Chicago, [San Jose] is the best team in the league right now,” Bylsma said on Thursday, as per Pens Inside Scoop. “They way they come at you, the way they play — I think [they’re] the best team in the league.”
San Jose currently sits second in the NHL in points (43), one back of first place Chicago but with two games in hand. In an ironic twist, it was a deflating loss to the ‘Hawks that kickstarted the Sharks’ recent hot streak — following a 5-1 loss at the United Center on Nov. 17, San Jose has ripped off six straight victories, including Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Toronto.
The victory over the Leafs started off the Sharks’ road trip well. They’ll continue on through Pittsburgh (tonight), Carolina (Friday) and Minnesota (Sunday) before returning home for a pair — then it’s back onto the road through Nashville (Dec. 14), St. Louis (Dec. 17) and Los Angeles (Dec, 19, though it really isn’t much of a road game.)
The Sharks have been getting contributions from all over lately, but the captain is really leading the charge. Joe Thornton has goals in three of his last four and now has 30 points through 27 games, leading the team while putting him in a tie for eighth in NHL scoring.
Thornton is on pace for 91 points this season, which would be his highest total since scoring 96 with the Sharks in 2007-08.
Related: Malkin (lower body) to miss tonight’s game versus Sharks
Thomas Greiss will be between the pipes for the New York Islanders when they host the Blackhawks tonight in Brooklyn.
Greiss was signed this offseason to back up Jaroslav Halak, who skated this morning but remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
“Jaro’s not 100 percent right now, so it was an easy decision,” coach Jack Capuano told Newsday. “Jaro’s progressing well and we’ll see how he is moving forward.”
Greiss will be backed up by J-F Berube, who was claimed off waivers from Los Angeles earlier in the week.
Corey Crawford will be in goal for Chicago.
These two teams meet again tomorrow at United Center.
— Michael Hutchinson goes for the Jets in New Jersey after Ondrej Pavelec got the win last night in Boston. Cory Schneider for the Devils.
— Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky for the Blue Jackets in their opener.
— Jonathan Bernier for the Leafs. Jimmy Howard for the Red Wings in their opener.
— Mike Smith for the Coyotes. Jonathan Quick likely for the Kings, who will need a better effort than the one they had Wednesday against San Jose.
Related: Mike Smith seeing benefit from sports psychologist
Winnipeg forward Alex Burmistrov isn’t in line for a disciplinary hearing for his elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron on Thursday night, an NHL spokesman confirmed to PHT.
Burmistrov was tagged with an illegal check to the head minor late in the first period. Bergeron received a minor roughing penalty for retaliating on the Russian forward, but was able to finish the contest.
Afterward, B’s head coach Claude Julien expressed frustration with the hit.
“It will be interesting how that is being reviewed, and especially to an elite player in the league who’s had some [concussion] issues in the past,” Julien said, per WEEI. “I hope they look at it seriously. In my mind, I don’t see why there wouldn’t be further consequences [for] that.”
Bergeron said that, while it was “definitely a hit to the head,” Burmistrov did come up to him afterward and apologized.
According to sources of CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty, Burmistrov received a warning from the Department of Player Safety.