Crosby: Penguins expect Sharks to be ‘really desperate’ in Game 3

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) The San Jose Sharks can take at least one positive out of losing the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh.

Despite being severely outplayed for almost the entire two games, the Sharks still managed to lose by only one goal with the game-winner coming in the final three minutes of Game 1 and in overtime in Game 2.

If the Sharks can somehow neutralize Pittsburgh’s decided edge in speed and get back to playing the style of play that got them this far for the first time ever they might be able to get back into the series when it shifts to San Jose for Game 3 on Saturday night.

“In the playoffs, things are magnified so much,” Sharks defenseman Paul Martin said Friday. “You lose a game and it’s a close game you think about a big opportunity that you let slide away. But when you go over the film and watch the games, it’s right there for us. We got better from Game 1. Game 2 was a lot better. We haven’t played our best hockey yet.”

The odds facing the Sharks are daunting. Of the 49 teams that have taken a 2-0 lead since the final went to the best-of-seven format in 1939, 44 have won the Cup. Teams winning the first two games at home have won 33 of 36 series.

But the Penguins know better than to start planning any parades. Two of those three teams to rally after losing the first two games on the road have done it in the past seven years, including Pittsburgh itself in 2009 against Detroit. Boston also overcame a 2-0 deficit to Vancouver in 2011.

“We’ve talked about it,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who played on that 2009 team. “You expect a really desperate hockey team. They’re only focused on winning one game. All their energy and everything is toward just tomorrow night. We’ve all been in situations where you put all that energy and all that focus toward one game and you know they will be at their best.”

Outside of a strong second period in the opener and a good push late in regulation in Game 2 when San Jose tied the game and nearly scored the go-ahead goal, the Penguins have been the better team.

They have a 71-48 edge in shots on goal, considerably more dangerous scoring chances and have forced the Sharks defense into the kinds of mistakes they didn’t make the first three rounds.

“They’ve done a good job keeping the puck in their zone, using their forecheck and making it tough on us,” defenseman Justin Braun said. “We’ve had a little trouble sustaining pressure. We’ve been one and out. They’ve had a couple of chances. That’s been a big difference.”

With Pittsburgh also doing a good job staying out of the penalty box, San Jose’s potent power play has had only three chances through two games and delivered one of the team’s three goals.

The Sharks say those lack of chances have been more about their play then the calls by officials.

“We’re not giving ourselves that opportunity,” center Logan Couture said. “We’re not playing with the puck enough. We’re not forcing them to play in their zone tired. That’s when penalties usually happen, at the end of long shifts. It’s up to us as players to force them to play in their zone.”

The Sharks did generate more chances when coach Peter DeBoer shuffled his lines in the third period of Game 2, dropping Patrick Marleau from second-line wing to third-line center and moving Joel Ward up to the second line.

He switched them back for practice but did not say how he would utilize his lines in Game 3. Top-line winger Tomas Hertl also missed practice on Friday for what DeBoer described as “maintenance” but he didn’t commit to Hertl playing Saturday.

One change that will happen is the shift in venues. Pittsburgh last played out of the Eastern Time Zone on Jan. 18 in St. Louis and hasn’t been to the West Coast since Dec. 6 in Anaheim before Mike Sullivan took over as coach.

The Sharks will have last change and a loud crowd behind them for the first Stanley Cup Final game ever in San Jose.

“We expect a really hard start and a good team,” Penguins forward Nick Bonino said. “These last two games have been decided very late, each one. They’re a great team. They’re going to come out really hard and we’ll have to match that.”

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.