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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:30 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Sharks find motivation in Penguins' victory

The Sharks are using the energy the Pittsburgh Penguins drew from winning a Game 5 to extend their series with the Philadelphia Flyers as a means to motivate themselves.

The Sharks are 0-4 all-time in series when they trail it 3-1 but feel like they can feed off past teams that have done it.

"Growing up watching it, you see it has happened all the time," Pavelski said. "When you watch that game in the Pitt-Philly series and you see Pitt win that second game, now there's Game 6 and now there's doubt in Philly's mind. We realize if we come out here and play a good game, play a strong game, make St. Louis come back with us, it's going to put a little doubt in everyone's mind. We'll gain a little confidence and we'll have to do it again then."

So how does that happen?

"It's just one day at a time," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "You've got to get through today to get to tomorrow. You've got to play with desperation, emotion and ultimately win the game tonight.

"We want to extend the series, so we've got to win here tonight to bring it back to San Jose for Game 6, but really just got to focus on one game and one game only."

The Sharks played desperate hockey at the end of the season when they won seven of nine and four in a row to end the regular season to get into the playoffs. Their backs were against the wall then, as they are now.

"We've talked about that. When you look at our season, we needed to work hard to get in, and the last four games -- two against Dallas and two against LA -- were must wins and we were able to get all four," coach Todd McLellan said. "We played well as a team with our backs up against the wall. We can do that here again tonight."

Added winger Ryane Clowe: "We've been in this position on the other side the last couple years where we've had a chance to close it out at home. It's not like there's extreme pressure, but you just want to go back on the road again. It's the thought that you don't want to go back to San Jose. You want to rest as much as possible and all that stuff. ... I know we've got a lot to lose but play like we're loose and we are playing for our lives."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:26 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Blues stifling Sharks star Pavelski, Marleau

The Blues' ability to neutralize star Sharks Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau (zero points in eight games dating back to the regular season against St. Louis) has been a big reason why the Blues have held San Jose to 10 goals in eight games this season.

The duo combined for 61 goals and 125 points in the regular season, which speaks volumes for what the Blues have done to them all year. That doesn't mean to let up off the accelerator.

"They're coming hard," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said of the pair. "They have the world-class talent. It can burn you if you give them any kind of room. We've got to continue to stay on them and really not give them opportunities to be difference-makers."

Pavelski, who is 42.2 percent on the faceoff dot, down from the 58.8 percent in the regular season, has a simple remedy.

"I think a lot of it's execution and just being ready," Pavelski said. "Obviously chances come at a premium here but we are getting them. You've got to get that one early and get in the game and we'll go from there."

Marleau was asked if the Blues have done anything to force some of the Sharks' stars to play out of their element.

"In the playoffs, you might have to do some things you wouldn't normally do," Marleau said. "On the other side of it, we have been getting chances. It's an inch here or there. It's that fine line, but you've got to stay positive and believe it's going to happen for yourself or the team."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:19 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Sharks' McLellan sees pressure for Blues, too

ST. LOUIS -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who has been on the other side of 3-1 series leads with his team on multiple occasions, said there is not only pressure on his team to extend this series but also on the Blues to end it.

Why? Because once the team with its backs against the wall wins, there's some confidence that grows and they get to take the series back home with hopes of extending it to a winner-take-all game.

"When we're in Detroit [last season], we're in that series and we're in the LA series, we come home against LA, we're up 3-1, there's some pressure to win," McLellan said. "There really is some pressure to win.

"We didn't win that one and now you get into their building and they really believe and they've got the crowd going. The pressure builds to close the series out when you have the lead. That may sound strange because there can't be any more pressure than on our group tonight to actually win the game. But there is pressure on that close-out team."

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't buying it.

"I don't know. To me, pressure leaves after one shift," Hitchcock said. "You just play. Both teams are playing well. At this time when you get into situations where the series is getting close to the end, you just narrow your focus. It actually becomes more fun for everybody. You're not worrying about anything but playing ice hockey and that's all that matters.

"Paying the bills waits, returning phone calls waits, even returning texts waits, but obviously tweeting doesn't. For me, it just narrows your focus. I know it's a crooked way of saying it, but I think it's a fun time. They know where they stand, we know where we stand."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Colaiacovo bounces back after sitting out

Just like teammate B.J. Crombeen, Carlo Colaiacovo had to sit and watch the opening game of this series between the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks. And like Crombeen, Colaiacovo didn't like it but had the best interests of the team.

The Blues' roster is at 26 players. Somebody has to sit. But when Colaiacovo got the opportunity to get back in, he's made the most of it with arguably three of his best games of the season.

"Going back to Game 1 was something hard to swallow," said Colaiacovo, who has three assists in the series -- all in Game 3. "Obviously it's a learning experience for me. You battle all year with a group of guys and then when it's time to elevate your game and time to play during the best time of the year and you're not in there, it doesn't sit well with me, and it wouldn't sit well with anybody. At this time of year, you've got to be at your best. Your game has to be raised to another level. The emotions are higher and everything more's at stake. I think that brings the best out of you.

"When you get that chance to play, you want to be at your best and do whatever you can to help the team win. I feel I've been able to do that the last three games and I just want to continue to focus on the positives and continue to move forward and don't take anything for granted."

Colaiacovo may have struggled somewhat down the stretch but instead of using of sulking, he chose to get better from the experience. It's paid off.

"There's no time to waste energy to sit and pout," Colaiacovo said. "Hockey's a team game, it's not an individual game. You're a part of the team and as a team, you're trying to accomplish one goal. You obviously hope to be in there to do that, but in my case when I wasn't, it hurt, it stung, it didn't sit well. You're supposed to feel like that. But at the same sense, you've got to be there for your teammates. You can't cry out for "poor me.

"You've got to take the good with the bad and focus on the positives and wait for your turn to get back in there and try to contribute any way possible."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:53 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

St. Louis' second line producing primary offense

One of the many successes for St. Louis in this series has been the play of Patrik Berglund, Alex Steen and Andy McDonald on the Blues' second line.

While the Sharks have been able to somewhat neutralize the top unit of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and David Perron, the Berglund line has accounted for 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in four games.
And to think, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn't throw this group together until the last game of the regular season in Dallas.

"I think pretty early," Steen said when asked when the chemistry came together. "We use the strength of the line very well. I think [MacDonald] and myself use our speed down low and [Berglund] kind of with his big body creates a lot of space for the two of us.

"We talk a lot about plays on and off the ice, on the bench as soon as we get a chance ... where we'd like each other to be in certain situations. We have triggers in our game now that we've played enough together enough times where we see if one guy does something, it triggers another guy to do something else. It kind of gets in sync that way. We're a hard-working line. We check well."

Both Steen and McDonald have shared the duties on both wings, with Steen most recently playing the right side.

"It's a little different for me, but I've done it before," Steen said. "It didn't take very long, and now I'm comfortable. I think if you watch the games, both [MacDonald] and myself read off each other pretty well. When one guy's on one side, we'll have a peek at each other and say alright, we'll just stay for now. ... We need to stay humble and keep working."

Hitchcock said it's all about each player playing to their respective strengths.

"I think we have the puck in the right people's hands," Hitchcock said. "I think [Berglund] has played great because he's deferred to the other two guys and he's played to his strengths. I think each guy's playing to his strengths right now, and it's allowed us to be a better line. I think [Berglund]'s figuring out as a center iceman that you don't have to have the puck all the time to be an effective center iceman in the NHL anymore. The new wave of NHL center icemen has that element now. ... He's learning that it's a give-and-go game. He's been much better because he's played with two guys that handle the puck well, have great patience and allows him to get into the right spots to shoot and score."

Hitchcock continued: "I really believe one of the reason's we're up in the series is [Backus and] Oshie killing penalties, negating top players has helped us out a lot. I can guarantee that this is the first time that San Jose hasn't started with the puck in a long time. Somebody told me [Joe] Pavelski's percentages are down 20, which is incredible for us. We thought if we were close to 45 percent, we'd be doing good, but to be in the 50s is terrific for us right now."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Jackman hopes for another series clincher

ST. LOUIS -- Only one player that sat in the St. Louis Blues' locker room Saturday morning was part of the last playoff series in 2002.

Defenseman Barret Jackman, who only played in one game for the Blues in that playoff season when the Blues beat Chicago in five games in the opening round before succumbing to Detroit in five in the conference semifinals, remembers it fondly.

"It was exciting. The city was buzzing," Jackman said of the Blues' 5-3 win over the Blackhawks in Game 5. "The team was very confident and playing very well but really understood how important it is to get that last clinching game. It was a hard-fought game. It was exciting all-around."

Jackman's hoping for a repeat performance Saturday when the Blues, who lead the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, can close out the series with a Game 5 win.

"We really respect our opponent," Jackman said. "We really respect the game that we play against them. I don't think any of the games that we've won, we've been hooting and hollering after it. I think we realized the work that was put in. We still have another game and you never know what can happen in the playoffs and in the NHL. These teams are so close. It's a matter of bounces and we know that."

A standing room-only crowd of 19,500 is expected to pack Scottrade Center in hopes that the Blues will wrap up the series in five and not have to make that cross-country trip back to San Jose for a potential Game 6 Monday night.

"Their building is pretty loud, but I still think our crowd matches one of the loudest crowds I've ever been in," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "I'm so excited. But we have to focus on what needs to be done and be ready for their best game of the series."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 12:46 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Projected lineups for Game 5

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the projected lineups for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday night between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks from Scottrade Center:

SHARKS

Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Martin Havlat
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
Daniel Winnik - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Colin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

The Sharks' healthy scratches include D Jason Demers, D Jim Vandermeer, LW TJ Galiardi, C Dominic Moore and LW Benn Ferriero.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Jamie Langenbrunner

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

Goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower-body) is still day-to-day after being injured in Game 2. Healthy scratches include forwards Matt D'Agostini, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defenseman Kent Huskins and Ian Cole.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

White lending playoff expertise to Sharks' blue line

SAN JOSE -- When the San Jose Sharks made the playoffs this year, it was like a homecoming for defenseman Colin White, a free-agent pickup.

White made the playoffs his first 10 NHL seasons with the New Jersey Devils before missing out last season. He won the Stanley Cup in 2000 with New Jersey as a rookie and again in 2003. In 2001, the Devils reached the Stanley Cup Final but lost in seven games to Colorado.

Overall, White has played in 112 NHL playoff games.

"I missed the playoffs last year for the first time in my career, so it's nice to be back in the playoffs this year," White said Thursday morning after the Sharks' optional skate at HP Pavilion. "It's just great to be back in this atmosphere where it's fun."

White was a healthy scratch the first two games of San Jose's series against St. Louis in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but he was in the lineup for Game 3 on Monday night and scored his third career playoff goal during the Sharks' 4-3 loss.

White will likely be in the lineup again Thursday night for Game 4 at HP Pavilion, paired with Justin Braun. In such a pivotal game, the Sharks can use White's wealth of experience in pressure situations.

"It's been great all year," Braun said. "We've had good chemistry for most of the year, and I feel like that's carried over. We're usually on the same page for most plays, and if something doesn't go right, we talk about it. He stays calm and helps me stay calm throughout the game. We're down in the series, but he keeps the boys positive."

White said he hasn't addressed the team during the playoffs, but he has passed along plenty of stories during the season about his career, that started at the pinnacle.

"The first year I was on a great team," White said. "I had a very small role on that team, but it's still a role. I think that's the biggest thing I learned that year, was no matter if you were playing 11, 12 minutes a night, it was a very important 11, 12 minutes. I think the next time we won I was playing more minutes, but I realized there were guys still playing 11, 12 minutes that were very important.

"I think over my career that's the biggest thing. Come playoff time you need everybody and everybody's going to get a shot because with injuries and whatnot throughout the playoffs, it takes everybody on a team to win. I think that was the biggest thing I've learned over the years. It takes a commitment by 25 guys, all pulling in the same direction, all believing in the same goal and trusting the guy next to you."

 

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:46 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Projected Game 4 lineups

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the St. Louis Blues at HP Pavilion in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series:

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

SHARKS

Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Martin Havlat
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
Daniel Winnik - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Colin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Blues playing with proper edge in San Jose

SAN JOSE -- Ken Hitchcock said there's a simple reason why the St. Louis Blues have gone 3-0 at HP Pavilion this season, beating San Jose twice in the regular season and then in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series on Monday night.

"Scared to death," Hitchcock said Thursday after his team's optional morning skate. "I think fear gets your attention. I think this has been a grave site for a lot of teams for a lot of years. I think you just get to a point where you're so afraid of getting blitzed that you get ready and you play on the edge, and I think we're better when we play like that.

"I think when you have a healthy respect, like our players do for their players, you play on the edge. We play better when we're uncomfortable, and we're uncomfortable in this building. It really gets our attention, and I think our players respond the right way."

The Blues built a 4-1 cushion, then held on for a 4-3 victory Monday night at HP Pavilion, giving them a 2-1 series lead entering Game 4 on Thursday night.

"We've got to win," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We're down 2-1. We need to win this home game. That's the bottom line."

Based on how the Sharks practiced Wednesday, they'll likely insert third-line center Michal Handzus and fourth-line wing Brad Winchester into the lineup in place of Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi. It's also likely that first-line wing Patrick Marleau will move to center on the second line, swapping places with Logan Couture.

"Potentially," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of those changes. "We've got some options we can use as far as injecting some new people into the lineup as well as shuffling lines around a little bit. We're looking for a little more sustained offensive zone time in 5-on-5 situations, a little more finish when we do get some opportunity, and we'll need that to have any type of success."

Hitchcock said he's had plenty of time to prepare for a new look from San Jose's top lines, with Joe Thornton and Marleau split up.

"I don't know how this is going to work. I don't know if [McLellan's] going to stay with it, but we've had a couple days to prepare for it if that's the way he's going to go," Hitchcock said.

"I think we're going to keep the same 12 forwards in, but don't be too surprised if there's tweaks in the lineup that impact the way we are. I like some of the things we did down the lineup, third and fourth lines, but I think we can even help them a little bit more, so depending on how this thing looks through the first rotation, the players are prepared to make a couple of small adjustments and get ready for it. We already know what we're going to do, and we'll be ready for it."

The Blues have a chance to go up 3-1 and put a hammerlock on the series, which returns to St. Louis for Game 5 on Saturday. Any possibility of the Blues being overconfident probably ended when they gave up two goals in the final three-plus minutes in Game 3.

"We're still in a series here against a very good team and we can't take anything for granted," Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "For us, this is the most important game of the series. We're going to expect a very desperate game from them. It's a matter for us to respond and handle it and play the way we can."

As important as Game 4 is, McLellan didn't come close to calling it a must-win for the Sharks.

"Well, the last time I checked, you have to win four," he said. "So, I don't know what that means to you guys, but it still means four to me. It would be great to be 2-2. Three-one is better for them, but four is the magic number.

"If there's a team that should know that, it's us. We just went through a seven-game series after being up 3-0," he added, referring to the Sharks' semifinals victory last year over Detroit. "So you can (put) it anyway you want. I still know that the playoffs are about four games, and we're still three away."

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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh