(Reuters) - San Jose coach Peter DeBoer has backed captain Joe Pavelski to shrug off a scoring drought ahead of Thursday's Game Five of the Stanley Cup finals against Pittsburgh as the Sharks seek to stave off a quick elimination in the series.
Pavelski has yet to register a point this series, after entering the finals as the league's leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, with 13.
His drought could hardly have come at a worse time, as the Sharks have fallen behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, leaving the Penguins only one win away from claiming the championship.
"We wouldn't be here without what he's done through the first three rounds," DeBoer said of Pavelski on Wednesday.
"I thought that last game was his best game. He's close to breaking out here for us."
DeBoer said he thought his team tightened up at the defensive end in Game Four, which he took as a positive despite the loss.
"I think early in the series, we were just giving them a little bit too much room," DeBoer said of his team, which gave up 20 shots on goal in Game Four, less than half the total of Game Three.
"They slung a lot of pucks to the net. Our awareness in that area was much higher (now). Our guys did a good job (in Game Four)."
The Sharks are expected to be without Czech forward Tomas Hertl again on Thursday.
"(Hertl is) day-to-day," with a knee injury, DeBoer said, before adding: "In Czech, that means out for the season."
The Penguins, meanwhile, went through their normal practice routine on Wednesday, with coach Mike Sullivan trying to keep things business-as-usual.
"We worked on things out there today that we think will help us in the next game," he said.
"That's been our approach all year, is we're trying to get better every day when we come to the rink."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)