(Reuters) - The Sharks will be banking on home comforts and incrementally improving form to help them take a bite out of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-0 lead when the National Hockey League Stanley Cup Finals resume in San Jose on Saturday.
With the Penguins having won two closely contested encounters in Pittsburgh to start the best-of-seven series, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer promised that his team would be “much better” on home ice for Game Three.
“Home crowd, sleeping in your own bed, I think all those things are important in the playoffs,” DeBoer told reporters on Friday.
“We just have to keep building our game. We were better in Game Two than we were in Game One. I think we’ll be better tomorrow than we were in Game Two.”
Asked whether his forwards could do a better job in supporting the defensemen, DeBoer replied: ”I think our support, not just coming out of our own zone, but all over the ice, is always important. (It’s been) a little bit off.
”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.
“We’ve gotten used to that over the first two games. I think we’ll be much better.”
The Sharks are in unknown territory as they make their first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals but DeBoer is well aware of the level of fight needed on the biggest stage in the NHL.
Four years ago, DeBoer led the New Jersey Devils into the Finals where they fought back from a 0-3 deficit before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.
”We went in a 3-0 hole and everybody was saying it was going to be a sweep, it was over,“ DeBoer recalled. ”I actually thought going into Game Six we felt pretty confident that we could win and bring it back to New Jersey for Game Seven.
”This isn’t over until the other team wins four games. You’re dealing with two very good hockey teams that beat some very good hockey teams to get here.
“So we’re not reading a lot into where we’re sitting right now. We’ve got to take care of business here at home.”
The Sharks lost Game One 3-2 and were then pipped in overtime in Game Two on Wednesday when rookie Conor Sheary scored on a set play off a faceoff won by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
”Crosby is a key guy, probably their best player through the first two games,“ said DeBoer. ”But he’s not the only guy.
“When you have (Phil) Kessel, Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin on three different lines, all three of those guys make more than anybody on our team. We’ve got to be aware of their whole group.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both