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Lines, Notes, and Quotes: Sharks mix up forwards; Crosby compliments Couture

Matt Nieto returns, and Tomas Hertl’s back on the top line tonight against Pittsburgh.

2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

SAN JOSE — In the wake of two consecutive losses and ahead of Sharks’ second Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pete DeBoer has mixed up his lines. Tomas Hertl moves back to the wing alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, while Matt Nieto will play his first game in two weeks, according to reporters who attended the Sharks’ morning skate.

In all, the Sharks’ lines will look as follows against Pittsburgh:

Tomas Hertl-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski

Joonas Donskoi-Logan Couture-Joel Ward

Mikkel Boedker-Patrick Marleau-Melker Karlsson

Matt Nieto-Chris Tierney-Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun

Paul Martin-Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon-David Schlemko

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Meanwhile, Conor Sheary returns to the Penguins’ lineup after missing the previous seven games, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and goaltender Matt Murray all missed the Penguins’ 3-2 win over San Jose 16 days ago, but are in the lineup tonight for their sixth, seventh, and second games of the seasons, respectively.

Pittsburgh’s lines and pairings looked like this at the morning skate:

Carl Hagelin-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel

Scott Wilson-Nick Bonino-Bryan Rust

Conor Sheary-Matt Cullen-Eric Fehr

Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang

Olli Maata-Trevor Daley

Ian Cole-Justin Schultz

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Crosby compliments Couture’s two-way play

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby played alongside Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic at this fall’s World Cup of Hockey. He said he was familiar with Thornton and Burns from previous tournaments with Team Canada, and has played against Vlasic dating back to their time in the QMJHL.

Crosby had not played with Couture, though, and said he came away impressed by his abilities on both ends of the ice.

“Having not really played with him in the past, you see how good he is every day, and how smart of a player he is.” Crosby said. “Both offensively, [but] defensively as well though. He was killing penalties a lot, and he’s just a really responsible two-way player.”

If there was a hatchet between Couture and Crosby, it certainly seems to be buried. Couture called out Crosby for cheating on face-offs during the Stanley Cup Final last June. But yesterday, Couture called Crosby the “best player in the world,” and said that Crosby hung out with him and the rest of San Jose’s Canadian contingent “quite a bit.” Crosby, too, said he enjoyed playing alongside the Sharks at the World Cup.

“It’s crazy how things turn pretty quick here, and you compete against them tonight,” Crosby said. “I’m sure the intensity and the way it was in the playoffs will probably carry over. That’s the great thing about hockey to be able to do that. It was a lot of fun to play with them in that tournament.”

Quote of the Day

Team Canada was not the only team at the World Cup of Hockey with strange bedfellows, as Joonas Donskoi and Olli Maata played together for Finland just months after playing against each other.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, an assistant for the United States at the tournament, coached Joe Pavelski, and I asked what he learned about Pavelski in their time together:

I’m not sure I learned anything new. Maybe you just gain another level of appreciation for a player when you’re up close to him. He’s obviously a great competitor. He’s a good person. He’s a terrific player, he’s got great hockey sense. What I gained to appreciate was him as a person because I didn’t really know him prior to that experience. But I’ve always had tremendous respect for him as a hockey player, and what he brings to the table. I think what probably I learned most was how good of a person he is, and what kind of a teammate he is, and how he impacts his locker room. He impacts the locker room every bit as much as how he plays. He’s a terrific player. I have a lot of respect for Joe.