Programming note – Sharks-Blues coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California
WHERE THEY STAND
Sharks: 9-7-0, 18 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Blues: 8-6-3, 19 points, 3rd Central Division
PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES
***Tonight marks the first meeting between the Sharks and Blues since San Jose beat St. Louis in the Western Conference Final in six games last May to advance to its first-ever Stanley Cup Final.
Logan Couture said: “Obviously it was us and them to go to the [Stanley Cup] Final. I’m sure they’re going to want to respond now, and come out with a strong effort.”
The Sharks return mostly their same lineup from last season, while the Blues have undergone a few changes, such as the departure of captain David Backes, forwards Troy Brouwer and Steve Ott and goalie Brian Elliott. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has assumed the captaincy.
“It’s definitely a little bit of a different team,” Joe Pavelski said. “They’ve lost some people that have helped create the identity they have. I don’t think we get too much of a different game, though. They play hard and we expect that fast, checking game that they like to play.”
The Blues started the season with a 3-0-1 mark, but are just 5-6-3 since then. They snapped a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) with a 4-1 win over the Sabres at home on Tuesday.
***San Jose is coming off of a 1-0 defeat to Carolina on Tuesday, but is 3-1 on its road trip that concludes on Saturday in Arizona. Although the Sharks reeled off three straight solid wins against the Capitals, Panthers and Lightning, they’ve also been shut out twice in their last five games.
Scoring has been an issue most of the season for the Sharks, who are the only team that has yet to score more than four goals in any game this season. They are 24th in the league with 2.31 goals-per game, and their 37 goals after 16 games is only one better than their all-time franchise low.
At five-on-five, the Sharks have been outscored 29-23. How do they get that part of their game going?
“All the same old clichés: we want to get traffic, get in the goalie’s eyes, get some dirtier goals. All those things,” Pete DeBoer said. “I believe it’s going to come. At the same time, while we’re waiting for it to happen, our defensive game has to put us in a spot where we can still win games, and I think we’ve done that.”
The Sharks are fifth in the league in goals-against per game (2.25) and surrender the second-fewest shots per game (25.7). St. Louis has been shut out or scored just one goal in eight of its 18 games.
***The Sharks forward lines weren’t revealed in the morning skate, and DeBoer didn’t offer any hints afterwards. Melker Karlsson didn’t skate, and it appears Matt Nieto will remain in the lineup.
KEEP AN EYE ON...
Sharks: Joe Thornton. If the Sharks offense is going to start firing on all cylindars, Thornton will have to play a large part. The team's number one center is scoreless in his last three games, though, and with just two empty net goals and nine assists, is behind his scoring pace from last season. Is it time to be concerned about the 37-year-old, or is it just a repeat of last season’s slow start before he got on a roll?
Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko. He’s questionable to play tonight, but if he does, the Blues’ leading scorer will be riding a six-game point streak (2g, 7a) including four points last Saturday against Columbus. The Russian winger, who was kept quiet in last year’s Western Conference Final, is tied for sixth in the NHL with 18 points (6g, 12a). His 66 shots are second in the NHL (Brent Burns, 75).
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Tomas Hertl – Kevin Labanc
Matt Nieto – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Martin Jones (starter)
Jaden Schwartz – Paul Stastny – Alex Steen
Robby Fabbri – Jori Lehtera – Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin – Patrik Berglund – David Perron
Scottie Upshall – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson – Kevin Shattenkirk
Petteri Lindbohm – Colton Parayko
Jake Allen (starter)
Sharks: Melker Karlsson (lower body) is out.
Blues: Alex Steen (undisclosed) and Vladimir Tarasenko (undisclosed) are questionable. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) and Joel Edmundson (upper body) are out.
“Each year through every team there’s moments throughout the season where you have to create your own energy. These long road trips, there’s moments in them where you have to do that. Tonight will be a good test.” – Joe Pavelski