Courtesy of Moon Golf Club

Sheary remembered where he wasn’t wanted

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Conor Sheary celebrates his first of two goals against his former team Thursday at PPG Paints Arena -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Penguins run a text-based marketing contest called "Pens Predictor" where fans of the team make numerical guesses on things such as "Which player will score first?"

If the game let you choose an opponent's player, the Penguins would have had to choose between 98-percent of the participating audience because that's the percentage who would have correctly chosen Conor Sheary.

Joking, of course -- kind of.

But, seriously, Sheary has had a proclivity for doing well against his former team, and he's only done it four times. In 2018-19, Sheary played the Penguins three times. He scored twice, helped twice, was a plus-4 -- his highest of the season and only team he was better than plus-2 against -- and posted his second highest shot total against, despite playing other teams four times.

Sheary continued that work Thursday when his two goals helped his Sabres to a 3-1 win over the Penguins in each team's season opener.

"You kind of get the feeling someone doesn't want you when they trade you," he told a rather crowded Sabres' locker room after his pair of goals. "I think I took that to heart, so coming back here is always fun."

It sure sounds like there's a positive correlation between his play against Pittsburgh and having extra motivation to succeed. The rest of the interviews, he just credited the system, however. He and the rest of the Sabres we talked to at that.

"I think there's a lot of excitement around our room," he continued.

"We've got a new system in here and I think everyone enjoys playing in that. We're playing aggressive and playing on our toes and creating a lot of turnovers. For us, it's a lot of fun to play in and play together."

I was pretty critical of Sheary in his final year in Pittsburgh, thinking and expressing -- quite often -- that he was unable to create enough on his own to contribute in a bottom six role when he wasn't playing with or producing with Sidney Crosby.

It seems, though, that not playing with a Crosby has allowed Sheary to grow into more of a system player than a superstar supporting one.

"For him here in Pittsburgh, no question, he was ready and dialed in," Ralph Krueger said of Sheary after winning his first game back from a six-and-a-half year absence from coaching in the NHL.

"We felt he came out of the injury with a lot of energy, and we could see that here tonight. It's good to have him in the lineup."

Sheary now holds a 4 goals, 2 assists, plus-5 stat line against his former team with three chances to improve on that coming in the rest of the 2019-20 season.

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

[caption id="attachment_897908" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Penguins vs. Sabres, PPG Paints Arena, Oct. 3, 2019 -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

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