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Stanley Cup Final Game 3 Preview: 5 keys for Sharks, Penguins

SAN JOSE, Calif.  – The San Jose Sharks return to the Shark Tank facing an 0-2 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Can the Pittsburgh Penguins dig them a deeper hole? Will the Sharks use home ice to finally control play?

Here are five keys for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final:

1. FEEDING FRENZY

After going 18-20-3 on home ice during the regular season, the Sharks are 7-1-1 at home in the playoffs, and for good reason: They control play, score at will on the power play and generally dominate. They’ve outscored opponents 33-17 on home ice.

So they need a solid start, and center Logan Couture said their fans will be up to the task.

“The fans feel like they’re right on top of you, and they’re loud, from before the puck drop. We can hear them in the dressing room,” he said. “I’ve heard from guys that have visited this building, and they talk about how difficult the early minutes are in this building when we’re playing Shark Hockey.”

2. POWER-PLAY CHANCES

The Sharks have nine goals on 30 power-play chances in nine home games. They’ve only earned three power plays so far in the Stanley Cup Final, and it’s pretty easy to understand why.

“We’re not giving ourselves that opportunity. We’re not playing with the puck enough, forcing them to play in their zone, get tired and that’s when penalties usually happen,” said Couture.

With puck possession comes power play chances, and that’s exactly where the Sharks want to be on home ice.

3. LIFE WITHOUT HERTL

The lower-body injury to Tomas Hertl that’ll keep him out of Game 3 is a real downer. His score-adjusted Corsi of 59.56 for the playoffs is indicative of how he’s excelled with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the team’s most effective line against the Penguins. And just as they have a chance to start getting favorable matchups with that line and the last change, Hertl goes down.

Can Melker Karlsson or Dainius Zubrus produce similar results? Will coach Peter DeBoer have to go to a third alternative in Game 3?

4. ZONE EXITS

One of the ways the Penguins have dominated the series is by not allowing the Sharks to have clean zone exits from their defensive end. Some of that has to do with the swarming defense Pittsburgh’s speedy players are executing – Sharks players have been wearing black-and-gold jackets for most of these games.

How does San Jose counteract that? With more puck support from their forwards on breakouts.

“Yeah, we talked about some things that we think we can do better today. I think our support, not just coming out of our own zone, but all over the ice, is always important. A little bit off,” said DeBoer. “Obviously, you have to give them some credit. Their speed pushes you into positions where if you're off by a couple feet, you're in trouble.”

5. STARS LEAD WAY

Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski don’t have a point in this series. After a strong Game 1, Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns didn’t hit the score sheet in Game 2.

Is it fair to call them out, expect more in Game 3?

Joel Ward has heard this before, back with the Washington Capitals.

“Hockey is the ultimate team sport. It’s not one guy or two guys, it’s everybody on the ice. To put the finger on someone – like Ovi or Backstrom in the past – it’s not really fair,” he said.

OK, that’s one way to look at it. Another way is that Pavelski has 12 points in nine home games, with seven goals. Thornton has 12 points, too.

While blame for defeat can’t be laid solely on them, it would be the opportune time for them to hit the scoresheet in a major way.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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