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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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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:26 PM

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

Sharks won't be only desperate team in Game 4

SAN JOSE - St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the San Jose Sharks won't have a monopoly on desperation Thursday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Sharks trail St. Louis 2-1 in the series and desperately want to avoid digging themselves into a 3-1 hole. But Hitchcock said Wednesday that the last thing he or his players want is to let the Sharks pull even and turn this series into a long, brutal battle filled with travel nightmares and little time for rest.

"If this thing goes 2-2 then it's, 'Who's got the best bus and who's got the best plane?' -- and that's not good for either team," Hitchcock said after the Blues' practice at HP Pavilion. "We're looking at this the same way they are. They want this thing going where they could start taking it over and we're looking at it as it gets scary after tomorrow. You're talking long flights, not much sleep, [a game] every other day, and who's got the best plane and who's got the best bus will be a big factor here. So we're looking at it like they are too. It's a big factor.

"I was in a lot of these [series] coming in and out of Dallas and they were not easy series. When it got to Games 5, 6 and 7 they were not easy for players, for coaches, for sleep patterns and they really impacted the next series."

After splitting the first two games in St. Louis, the Blues beat the Sharks 4-3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. St. Louis took a 4-1 lead early in the third period before the Sharks rallied for two late goals.

'The biggest thing for us is knowing that we could win a playoff game on the road," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We have a lot of young guys who haven't had that much experience. We know we can win in this barn; we did it in the regular season. But it's a tough place to win in the playoffs."

Hitchcock said he's still not sure when injured goaltender Jaroslav Halak will be healthy enough to play. Halak hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury early in the second period of Game 2 when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidentally knocked him to the ice. Halak skated Tuesday for the first time since being injured but didn't skate or practice Wednesday, and he will miss Game 4. Brian Elliott will make his second straight start.

"We'll keep him working toward getting back at some time," Hitchcock said of Halak, "but right now he's not available so Brian is the guy."

Elliott went 23-10-4 during the regular season with nine shutouts and led the NHL with a 1.56 goals against average and .940 save percentage.

"We've had confidence in him since Day 1," Hitchcock said. "For us it just feels like one guy is playing a few more games than the other one. I think if it lasts, if it ever went where you stayed with the same guy for a month then it would seem different. I think most teams have this scenario going where they just stay with one guy. It's still early in the picture and we're fully expecting Halak to be a player, hopefully."

Hitchcock said that Elliott impressed him earlier in the season by how competitive he was in practice. Now that Elliott is carrying the full load, Hitchcock is trying to rein him in.

"We're constantly having to [do] like we did today -- stop him, kick him off the ice," Hitchcock said. "He has to get in the mindset that the games are everything, less is more, get enough of your practice in and once your reps are done, get off the ice. He's one of those guys that wants to hang out there until the last shot."

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:16 PM

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

Sharks feel Blues just as dangerous with Elliott in net

SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak missed practice Monday morning with a lower-body injury and, as expected, won't suit up for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

Brian Elliott will be in goal for the St. Louis with Jake Allen, a call-up from Peoria of the American Hockey League, on the bench as his backup, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock said he doesn't know how long Halak will be sidelined.

"He's out today. He's day-to-day, and we'll just see how he feels tomorrow and see if we're going to get him back in any short period of time. We're not really sure," Hitchcock said. "It gets better quickly, but obviously not enough to skate today."

Halak was injured early in the second period of Game 2 when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidently skated into him, knocking him hard to the ice. Elliott took over and completed the Blues' 3-0 shutout.

Both Blues goaltenders put up stellar numbers this season, and both went 2-0 with a shutout against the Sharks in the regular season. Despite having similar stats, Halak and Elliott aren't clones, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.

"Elliott's bigger," he said. "I think there's an obvious size difference there. Less experienced. You look at what Halak had done in Montreal. Some of the wins he provided that franchise were incredible, really, but other than that they're both tremendous goaltenders. They know that. I don't think they miss a beat one bit by starting Brian Elliott tonight."

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said Elliott made some key saves "using his long legs" in Game 2.

"I thought he came in last game and we probably gave him a chance to feel comfortable," Clowe said. "We didn't get much action on him early. Tonight if we can sustain pressure and get some chances -- some second chances more than anything -- early, you're going to score. We got to try to get to him."

Elliott had nine shutouts during the regular season, while Halak had six. Elliott posted a 1.56 goals-against average to 1.97 for Halak.

"We have confidence in both our goalies," Blues defenseman Kris Russell said. "They both play the puck well, they both talk to us very well. I feel as a D corps with those goalies we have a connection there. We've done well talking together and working plays out. We have confidence in both those goalies. That's why we have been successful."
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:48 PM

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

Projected Game 3 lineups

SAN JOSE -- Here’s how the lineups could look Monday night when the San Jose Sharks play the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series at HP Pavilion:

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobatka - 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
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:36 PM

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

Sharks could change lineup to add size, toughness

SAN JOSE -- Something needs to change for the San Jose Sharks after falling 3-0 on Saturday to the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

It could be the Sharks' lineup for Game 3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion.

"We have that option," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's optional morning skate. "We have five extra players that are here. We're debating different line combinations, different players that we can throw in. When the puck drops we'll all know what they are."

If McLellan does make lineup changes, defenseman Colin White and former Blues forward Brad Winchester are the most likely additions. Both would add size and toughness in what has become a very physical series.

"Do we need some size in and around the net?" McLellan said. "Perhaps. Is it in and around their net or in and around our net? We'll have to make a decision there. Do we need some tempo? I didn't think we skated the way we needed to skate in the last two periods to get to the battles. They got their eyes up in the offensive zone and were dangerous, and we never had that chance. In the offensive zone we were a little bit slow. We need to find some tempo in our game as well."

Neither Winchester nor White offered any clues as to whether they'd be in the lineup for Game 3.

"I have no idea," White said. "Your guess is as good as mine."

San Jose's top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski has yet to record a point in the series in two games matched up against the Blues' top line of David Backes, David Perron and T.J. Oshie. But now that the Sharks are home and have the last change, McLellan, if he chooses to, can adjust the matchups and pit Thornton's line against St. Louis' second line of Patrik Berglund, Alexander Steen and Andy McDonald.

"We'll make some decisions as the game goes on," McLellan said. "The Backes-Jumbo matchup is what they want. If you get away from it you fall into the Berglund-Jumbo match. We talked about this in St. Louis. They're just as capable as Backes is. … If you avoid one you take the other one on. The top end players are going to have to play through it and find ways to be effective."

Oshie said he's ready for a curve from the Sharks and wouldn't be surprised if McLellan adjusts the matchups, which would also pit St. Louis' top line against San Jose's second line of Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat.

"Something's going to change," Oshie said. "If that's it, the responsibility (against Thornton's line) goes on someone else and we're going to have to deal with Couture, and that's a great line, too. I think our top two lines are pretty similar in the sense they're both hard-working, they both can put the puck in the net."

"I think that's one of the things about our team, is with the depth we have, if Jumbo's not getting us, they're most likely getting Berglund's line. They're very good at playing in the offensive zone. We just try to play in the offensive zone as much as we can on them. They're going to get their chances. We're not going to hold them to no points the whole series. We know that. They're a great line, but as much as we can we want to limit them."

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:04 PM

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

Stewart back in lineup, hears message 'loud and clear'

SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock sent an unmistakable message when he pulled third-line forward Chris Stewart from the lineup Saturday night for Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals against San Jose.

Hitchcock sent another clear message Monday morning when he announced that Stewart would be back in the lineup for Game 3 at HP Pavilion.

"He's going to play today," Hitchcock said. "Need him. Need his 'A' game. When he's playing, he's a hard guy to play against. He can play physical. He plays a lot like Milan [Lucic] does in Boston. So we need him in. He's got good hands and can score from the inside. He's a guy that gives us a chance to get way more five-on-five scoring chances, which we're going to need on the road. We're not getting enough of those. So he's going to help us there hopefully."

When he made Stewart a healthy scratch in Game 2, Hitchcock said he needed "more tenacity, more determination, more second and third effort from that position."

Stewart said that after the Blues beat San Jose 3-0 in Game 2, knotting the series at 1-1, he didn't expect the lineup to change. He welcomed the chance to redeem himself.

"The message was sent. It was received loud and clear," Stewart said. "I'm going to go out there and I'm going to work my [tail] off. You see the last game. Those are the games you dream about. End of the game you win and there's line brawls and stuff like that. That's stuff you want to be a part of. I'm obviously disappointed I didn't get to experience that, but that's the good thing about this game, you get a chance right now tonight to redeem yourself. It's, 'What have you done for me lately?' I'm going to go out there and show 'em."

Hitchcock said he hadn't decided which forward Stewart would replace, but during line rushes in the morning skate, Matt D'Agostini appeared to be the odd man out. Stewart skated with center Jason Arnott and wing Vladimir Sobotka. Fourth-line center Scott Nichol skated with Jamie Langenbrunner and B.J. Crombeen.

Hitchcock was asked how much Stewart could elevate his game, just two days after being scratched.

"A lot," Hitchcock answered. "I think we'll get a good player tonight."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 8:19 PM

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

Sharks hope to capitalize on their chances

SAN JOSE – Two games. Zero points.

That's not the type of production the San Jose Sharks expected from their top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against St. Louis. But that's the reality approaching Game 3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. Thornton's line has matched up against St. Louis' top line of David Backes, David Perron and T.J. Oshie, which has produced just three points.

"Both lines have had their chances," Thornton said Sunday after practice. "I think me and [Pavelski] had a couple of chances last night. We're feeling good, we're feeling comfortable. Hopefully we can be on the score sheet tomorrow."

Most of those good scoring chances Saturday night in Game 2 came in the first period.

"I thought our first period was our best period of the series so far and we come out of it [trailing] 1-0," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "They did create some opportunities. Where their polish has to come a little better or a little more is on the power play. If [the Blues are] going to take some penalties, undisciplined penalties, we have to make them pay for it. Last night, we weren't as good as we were in Game 1. We were a little disjointed, so we'll look at fixing that."

The Sharks, who went 1-for-15 on the power play against St. Louis during the regular season, went 0-for-4 in Game 2. They went 1-for-3 in Game 1, a 3-2 San Jose victory in double overtime.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:21 PM

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

Moore practices, expected to play in Game 3

SAN JOSESan Jose Sharks forward Dominic Moore practiced Sunday afternoon, one day after suffering a broken nose in Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

Moore was hurt during a brawl that broke out after the third-period buzzer when Blues winger Vladimir Sobotka took him to the ice and hit him in the face. Sharks coach Todd McLellan called it a "sucker punch."

Moore said he was having some trouble breathing through his nose but that he is available to play in Game 3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. As for Sobotka's punch, Moore offered no opinion.

"I really don't have any need to comment on it, to be honest," Moore said.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:43 PM

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

Sharks not satisfied with split in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Teams starting on the road in the playoffs may think a best-case scenario is splitting the first two games and returning with home-ice advantage for Games 3 and 4.

For the San Jose Sharks, why split? Be selfish and go for the gusto.

They have that opportunity Saturday, a chance to head back to HP Pavilion with a 2-0 series lead.

"Coming into here, we didn't want to split," defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "You want to concentrate on the first game. You don't want to come in here thinking you can get a split. You want to win the first one, and we did that, and now we want to win the second one. You have to have a winning mentality, so we want to win tonight as well."

Center Logan Couture agreed.

"You come into Game 1 wanting to win Game 1 and you come into Game 2 wanting to win Game 2," he said. "You go into every game wanting to win. You don't expect it, but you go in wanting to. Going up 1-0, we [now] want to go up 2-0."

But defenseman Justin Braun expects the Blues to come at the Sharks with full vigor.

"I expect, if not the same, a little more from them," Braun said of the Blues. "They crashed our forecheck hard. I expect them to do the same tonight.

"You can't really think about it one and one. Take one game at a time and that's your opportunity to get the win. Take advantage of that every chance you get."

The Sharks, winners of five straight games and eight of 10 going back to the regular season, feel they have an edge just because they've been in playoff mode for weeks fighting for their playoff lives.

San Jose has been used to clinching early in seasons past, but was not guaranteed a spot among the Western Conference's top eight until the final week.

"I know we've been in that playoff mode for a little while," coach Todd McLellan said. "We've tried to keep as much of a normalcy around our team as we've had around that push. We didn't go to extremes for preparation or anything like that. We wanted to keep it as familiar as it was. We'll continue to do that and evaluate from game to game. ... In our situation, that's all we've done."

It's been the right frame of mind for the players.

"You want to clinch it as early as you can, but I feel like we've been in the mindset of playoffs for the last three weeks," Braun said. "It's been a huge advantage so far."

Added Couture: "I think going into the playoffs, we went in the right way ... playing well and playing hard, really fighting for a spot. That helped us out a little bit. We're focused on this series now. We've put the regular season behind us. We've got a big game tonight."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:34 PM

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

Blues' Stewart understands reasons for benching

ST. LOUIS -- The biggest surprise may have been for St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock to finally pull the trigger on forward Chris Stewart, who has had an off-year by his standards.

Stewart will be a healthy scratch Saturday when the Blues play host to the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

After dropping to 15 goals following back-to-back 28-goal seasons, Hitchcock feels there's more that could be had from the Toronto native.

"We need more from him," Hitchcock said. "This is certainly not based on one hockey game. We just need more.

"From that position on our hockey club, that third line role, we need more tenacity, more determination, more second and third effort on the puck. We need all of that from that position. I think the opposition got in from their positioning and we need to get it from ours if we expect to change the outcome."

Stewart, who dressed in Game 1 and played on the team's third line with Jason Arnott and Vladimir Sobotka, was visibly disappointed after the morning skate.

"My number wasn't on the board. My play wasn't good enough last game," Stewart said. "We're fighting for our lives every day. I had the opportunity to step up and didn't get the job done. At the end of the day, it is what it is. This isn't the time of the year to pout or get down on yourself. We're a team, we've got to stick together and they're going to need me eventually in this series, and when I get the chance again, I'll be ready."

Teammates are on full alert: don't produce and your name could also be missing from the lineup card.

"I think it's a little bit of a message, but I think [Hitchcock] also has his game plan and the way he wants us to play," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think he's going to try to implement players in here, whether we're at home or on the road from a game to game basis and see what he can change up.
"That's another reason why they're in the lineup. You look at the guys coming in, there's some energy players there that can skate, hit, keep us on track as far as the way we can play and keep us sticking to our game plan."

It's a position Stewart's not familiar with, though.

"No. But you can understand," Stewart said. "I understand the game well, so I do get where [Hitchcock's] coming from. I do hope I get a chance to get back in there and show him that I can play. Now, I'll just wait for the time.

"There's obviously more to give. Also, you do need the opportunity. I didn't get the most ice time in the world last game [15:22], but it's up to me to earn it. I've got to go out there with the ice time I do get and show them that I deserve more. You look at our team and our depth, there's guys that demanded the ice time and I wasn't one of them. That's why am I where I am right now."

"It's a pretty bad feeling, but like I said, this is the time of year that it's no time to pout or be down on yourself," Stewart added. "We're all professionals here, and we're all a team. It's one game at a time."


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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:30 PM

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

Hitchcock makes three lineup changes after loss

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock said to expect changes for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

He wasn't kidding around.

The St. Louis Blues will make three lineup changes when they play host to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday after losing 3-2 in double overtime Thursday night.

Carlo Colaiacovo will replace Kent Huskins on defense and be paired with Alex Pietrangelo, while forwards Matt D'Agostini and B.J. Crombeen are in and Chris Stewart and Ryan Reaves come out for a pivotal game in which the Blues need if they want to avoid what is staring at Pittsburgh and Vancouver: heading on the road down two games in a series.

"When you lose in a hockey game, whether you’ve lost by one goal, whether you’ve lost in overtime or whatever, if you go into the next competition thinking that everything should the same and expect a different outcome, I think that’s a huge mistake," Hitchcock said. "I don’t believe in that statement, 'Keep doing it over and over again and don’t change anything.' I think we're obligated to change. And I don’t mean dramatic changes, but there are things that as a series moves on, whether you’re having success or not, you have to look in the mirror and do better. There are things that we did very well, and there are things that we have to do better so we addressed both yesterday and today and just emphasizing the things that we did well.

"There are obvious things in our eyes just from our own game standpoint that you need to do better. I think as any series goes on, it really just becomes about you and your game and not so much the opposition. They are what they are and they play the way they play. I think everybody in the National Hockey League knew that when push came to shove, a team like San Jose would turn up the temperature when it was time because of their experience and their expectations. We knew that. We expect them to play well tonight, we just need to play a little better."

Colaiacovo missed the last game of the regular season in Dallas and Thursday night. He wasn't thrilled to be on the sidelines but was supportive of a team deep in the talent pool, as the Blues must sit six players each night with a healthy unit.

"At this time of year, you never want to be a spectator, especially with so much on the line," Colaiacovo said. "It's unfortunate with the results of the last game. I think we deserved a better fate, but that's going to make us hungrier for tonight. We're in a hole right now against a really good team and we're in a place where we've been really good all year -- at home. We need to get that hunger and that energy back and find a way to win tonight because we don't want to put ourselves down going into their building. I don't expect anything different from our team. We've been good at responding all year.

"The decision obviously didn't sit well with me, but I'm getting the opportunity tonight to get back in there. The biggest thing is when you're part of a team like this, it's a right feeling to be pissed off and to be upset about not playing but you're still here for the team. You're still part of a team of 26, cheering the guys on and doing whatever you can to help us get a win. That's been my motivation. My motivation's been to continue to work hard, not be happy with the decision but be ready when my chance comes."

Hitchcock said of Colaiacovo: "He wasn’t healthy at the end of the year. He’s healthy now so, just get back to the game he can play. They’re a good tandem. They play well together. He’s healthy now. He’s a good puck mover. They move the puck around with each other well. He’s good on transition, he’s a good first outlet player, passes it well. By getting healthy and getting rested, I think we’ll get a good player."

Crombeen replaces Reaves, who in only 8 minutes, 1 second gave the Blues plenty of life, energy and tremendous grit. But Hitchcock has a plan in mind.

"We consider [Crombeen]  and [Reaves] to be the same type of player, both high-energy guys," Hitchcock said. "One guy's got a little bit more experience and can play up the lineup a little bit higher if we need it."

Crombeen was scratched for nine of the last 10 regular season games as well as Game 1 on Thursday. He said when you get the chance, players better make it stick.

"I think everyone knows with the depth we have on our team, there's some guys that are sitting out that don't want to be," Crombeen said. "I don't think anyone ever wants to sit out, especially with this team. When you get the chance, you're definitely looking to take advantage of it. I've got to go out and let my play do the talking and make sure that he can't take me out.

"Obviously no one's happy sitting out. Everyone's pissed off, but you can't bring that to the rink. You can't bring that around the guys. You've got to be encouraging the guys and just working your hardest to make sure that you're ready when you do get the chance. ... I'm not going in trying to reinvent the wheel. Just go in and try to play my game and do what I do."

Hitchcock called D'Agostini "the wildcard."

The Blues are still trying to find out just how much D'Agostini can give them. He missed 25 games late in the season with a concussion. He played in a couple games down the stretch.

"I'm just excited to get out there and do my part and try to contribute to what we've got going on here," D'Agostini said. "You're obviously going to be a little upset when you're not playing. You try not to be too much of a downer around the guys. It does take a little bit of a toll on you, but at the same time, we've got one of the deepest teams in the playoffs. You've got to go with the flow when you're not in. Hopefully I just get out there and play my game and stick in the lineup."

"D'Agostini for me is a real wildcard," Hitchcock said. "He's a player that, when healthy, is a very effective player. He's got speed, he's got a great shot and again, he's another player when push comes to shove, can play higher up the lineup, too."





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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:01 PM

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

Stewart scratched for Game 2, projected lineups

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks from Scottrade Center.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Matt D'Agostini

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

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

The Blues' healthy scratches include forwards Chris Stewart, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves as well as defensemen Kent Huskins and Ian Cole

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

The Sharks' healthy scratches include D Colin White, D Jim Vandermeer, LW Brad Winchester, LW Benn Ferriero and C Michal Handzus.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

Healthy, productive Havlat adds to Sharks' weapons

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock certainly knows a thing or two about San Jose Sharks winger Martin Havlat.

Hitchcock saw plenty of Havlat when the Czech Republic native was breaking into the NHL with the Ottawa Senators. Hitchcock was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers at the time and saw a high-flying skater with big-time scoring punch.

He retouched on those points earlier in the week leading up to the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Blues and Sharks.

"I've coached against Havlat where he was the best player in every game ... it wasn't even close," Hitchcock said. "He was better than [Marian] Hossa. So I know what he can do."

Those points came to fruition Thursday night. Havlat became a thorn in Hitchcock and the Blues' side with two goals, including the game-winner in the second overtime of a 3-2 victory by San Jose, giving the seventh-seeded Sharks a 1-0 series lead.

Havlat came into the game with 28 points [12 goals, 16 assists] in his last 26 playoff games. After a tumultuous time in Minnesota, he was acquired by the Sharks before the season for this very purpose.

"Marty's a goal scorer," teammate Ryane Clowe said. "Goal scorers find ways."

Havlat found a way to open the scoring for San Jose, then ended it by taking a Clowe backhand feed and one-timing a shot from the high slot past Jaroslav Halak for the third playoff overtime goal of his career.

"I'm just trying to enjoy the time in the playoffs," said the 30-year-old Havlat, who has 21 goals and 51 points in 68 career playoff games. "I'm just trying to do my best and help my team. I think everybody else is trying to do the same thing."

Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan: "He has that reputation [of a clutch performer]. That's one of the reasons why he was acquired.

"We're very lucky that he had the type of game that he had."

It's been a tough year for Havlat, who is playing for his fourth NHL team. He missed four games at the start of the season because of offseason shoulder surgery, then missed 39 more games in the middle of the season after suffering a freak hamstring injury. He finished with a career-low seven goals and had 27 points in 39 games.

The Sharks were certainly a better team with Havlat in the lineup, going 25-11-3 with him in the lineup, 18-18-7 without him.

Havlat dressed for the final 13 games and was productive leading into the postseason, finishing with five goals and 12 points.

"It had to be taxing on him," McLellan said of Havlat. "You have to remember that he's only played 13-14 games returning from his injury. To go 4 1/2 periods -- give him credit. He managed himself well."

Sharks captain Joe Thornton called Thursday's game by Havlat "a big performance from a big-time player."

Now, with Havlat in the top-six mix for a deep and talented Sharks forward crop, San Jose becomes even more dangerous. For a team that reached the conference finals the last two seasons, that only bodes well moving forward.

"I'm just happy that I could be back before the end of the regular season and help the boys in the hunt for the playoffs," Havlat said. "Now I've played a few games before [the playoffs] and I'm happy for that.

"I got to know the boys a little more on the ice. I was ready for the first game. Now that we've made the playoffs, I'm excited to be in the playoffs."

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:50 PM

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

Blues sticking with Halak as Game 2 starter

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock announced after Friday's optional skate for the team that they will stay with Jaroslav Halak in goal for Saturday's Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

The Blues dropped the opener 3-2 in double overtime on Martin Havlat's goal.

Halak stopped 31 shots and could not be faulted for any of the three San Jose goals.

"He was like our team," Hitchcock said of Halak. "He had some real good moments and then some time, we'd like him better. He was just like our team."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:02 PM

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

Uncommon ground for Sharks starting on road

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks, who come in as the seventh seed and on uncommon ground in the opening round, will start on the road for the first time in an opening-round playoff series since 2007. They will look to take advantage of a situation by trying to wrestle home-ice advantage away from the St. Louis Blues.

"We haven't had that in the four years that I've been there and certainly longer in the organization," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Opening up on the road is new to us. I think it's something that we need to take advantage of. That may sound strange, but the pressures that go with being a one or two [seed] are different that being a seven and an eight team. We can spin that any way we want. We can say it's coaches playing mind games and all that type of stuff, but it's real. It is what it is.

"As a coach, I feel that playoff intensity but I feel different right now than I have in some of the other series, and that may be a really good thing for our team; it may be a bad thing. That's why we have to play it."

Center Logan Couture agreed.

"It's a different feeling. We're used to starting at home, but it's a different opportunity for us," Couture said. "This is a tough building to come in and win in. We're looking forward to that challenge. ... We want to get off to a good start. You want to get the lead in the first game. We're going to try to get the start going and hopefully get the first goal."

------------

The mental hurdle of going 0-4 against the St. Louis Blues this season is something the Sharks will look to overcome as these playoffs start.

The Blues outscored San Jose 11-3, but the Sharks, with their advantage in experience, hope to overcome the challenges and look to prove they can beat the Blues.

"You remember those games, but you also can't forget about them as well," Couture said. "It's 0-0 right now, it's a brand new season. We know we didn't play our best when we played these guys in the regular season. We've got a chance to prove to ourselves that we can beat them."

So what did the Sharks learn from those games against the Blues?

"We know they check tight, they check smart," winger Ryane Clowe said. "Some teams you feel like you get a little more space, but against them, it's more congested and they're in your face. ... At the start, everyone's hyped up. They're going to come out with a lot of energy."

Added Couture: "They forecheck really hard. They're a fast team, they don't turn pucks over, so we really have to bear down on our chances when we get them because they're so good defensively."

The Sharks skated with an edge this morning in anticipation of the beginning of the playoffs.

"I think there's an energy that comes with playoffs," McLellan said. "It's not just our group; I watched them skate a little bit. They had some energy and some excitement in their game as well. That happens in the first round.

"All that early emotion exists. You'd like to have a controlled emotion. Probably after five-six minutes, everybody settles in and starts playing. But there is an excitement. It's a shortened season now, it's a 28-game year. You know what you're playing for. Everybody's at the starting line. Excitement's spread out amongst the 16 teams."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:52 PM

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

Blues lack Sharks' experience, but ready for postseason

ST. LOUIS -- It will be eight years to the day since the St. Louis Blues franchise last won a playoff game. It came against the same opponent these Blues will face when this Western Conference Quarterfinals series starts Thursday night.

But when the Blues open the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks (7:30 p.m. EST on CNBC), memories of years past will not be a factor.

Only Barret Jackman remains from the Blues' 2004 team that lost to the Sharks in five games, so that drought is insignificant to the remaining 25 players on this roster.

The Blues, who finished the regular season at 49-22-11, are the Western Conference's No. 2 seed, and San Jose (43-29-10), which has made it to the conference finals in each of the last two seasons, comes in as the No. 7 seed.

The Blues, who won all four meetings with the Sharks this season and outscored them 11-3, will face a team with more than 1,000 games of playoff experience compared to the Blues' 484.

But after three hard days of practices leading into this series opener, it's time to draw the battle lines and drop the puck.

"I think we were excited and focused today, which is a very good sign," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Usually one of the days, you have a really poor outing and we didn't have that, which is a great sign. We wanted the temperature turned up from a compete standpoint and they responded. But I think they're tired of practicing and they want to get playing. Both teams will be more than ready. I think both teams will come at each other like nobody's business."

The Blues will have three skaters (Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Reaves) on the ice in the postseason for the first time; Tommy Wingels will be the lone Shark to make his NHL postseason debut. But for a younger team looking to make its mark and one that wants to prove that the regular season was no fluke, expect the Blues to come out flying.

"This is my first playoff and I'm excited to be a part of it," Shattenkirk said. "I've been getting lots of text messages and calls from around the league from buddies who are out of it but said they're pulling for me and our team. It's a nice position to be in when you're still playing."

Added veteran Andy McDonald: "It's exciting, I think. Just being disappointing the last three or four years, it's been a work in progress, just a lot of ups and downs. We've kind of gotten better together, so that's why I think tomorrow is such an important game, important series, important start to something big. We've gone through it together and now everyone is excited about it."

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal for the Blues after going 26-12-7 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in the regular season. With Brian Elliott missing part of practice Tuesday and Wednesday with an upper-body injury, the decision Hitchcock was anticipated to make became an easy one.

"Whoever got the start, we know is really going to play well," Jackman said. "I don't know if it's going to be a 1-2 rotation or ride the hot hand, but no matter what happens between the pipes, we have confidence in both guys."

And there was no bad choice in the matter, as Halak and Elliott combined to help the team win the Jennings Trophy, given for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL this season. They allowed 155 non-shootout goals in 82 games, which equals 1.89 goals per game.

"They're playing really good hockey right now," Blues winger T.J. Oshie said of the Sharks, who finished the regular season winning seven of nine, including four in a row. "Most of their players have been to the playoffs before more than once and they know how to play this time of the year.

"They're going to try to have the confidence to come in and try to push us out, but with us knowing how to beat them in the regular season, we've just got to apply that and stick to our game. We don't have to do anything spectacular. We've just got to play as a team."

The Blues continue to play with a healthy lineup. They have 26 players on the active roster and have a number of skaters at Hitchcock's disposal to choose from. The 20 guys that will skate in the opener are what Hitchcock calls guys playing "in the now." Those guys "in the now" are players that can elevate this team offensively, which ranked 21st in the NHL during the regular season.

"I really believe this. I really believe that we have another gear offensively," Hitchcock said. "I think we're better offensively than we get credit for."

The Blues appear to be ready. When the puck drops at Scottrade Center, which will be buzzing for playoff hockey, the Blues will buzz right along with it.

"Playoffs is all about passion and emotion for the game and growing up, back home, we played street hockey and we played for the fake Stanley Cup," winger David Perron said. "Now we're playing for the real one. Every single guy, that's why we started to play hockey. It's to play in the NHL and hopefully win the Cup. That's what it's going to be all about."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:34 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center.

BLUES

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

Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

The Blues are injury-free and their healthy scratches include forwards Matt D'Agostini, Jaden Schwartz, Chris Porter and B.J. Crombeen as well as defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian Cole. Elliott, who has been nursing an upper-body injury the last couple days, was back on the ice Thursday morning after missing a day and a half and has been deemed 100 percent by coach Ken Hitchcock.

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

The Sharks' healthy scratches include D Jason Demers, D Jim Vandermeer, LW Brad Winchester, RW James Sheppard, LW Benn Ferriero and C Michal Handzus.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:20 PM

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

Blues name Halak as Game 1 starter

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- There was plenty of drama leading into the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks. Like all postseason series, there's a storyline and angle from each side.

For the Blues, it was which goalie Ken Hitchcock would go with to open the playoffs.

But after it was disclosed Tuesday that Brian Elliott has been nursing an upper-body injury, Hitchcock's choice as a Game 1 starter against the Sharks on Thursday became a no-brainer.

Hitchcock said after practice Wednesday that Jaroslav Halak would start the opener and the hope was Elliott would be available as the backup.

Halak was 26-12-7 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in the regular season.

Elliott, who led the NHL in GAA (1.56) and save percentage (.940) this season, suffered his injury on April 5 against Detroit, an injury Hitchcock said is very minor. There was a play early in the first period in which Elliott made a save on Pavel Datsyuk and in the process, teammate T.J. Oshie back-checking skid into the scrum and helped knock Elliott back into the goalpost.

Elliott was kept off the ice for practice Wednesday and is expected to back up Thursday night.

"Obviously Halak's starting," Hitchcock joked. "That one's done.

"It made the decision yesterday pretty easy. We'll start with Jaro and like everything else, hope for the best."

The Blues recalled goalie Jake Allen from Peoria on Tuesday in hopes of just using him during practice sessions in the coming days until Elliott is fully recovered. The choice between Halak and Elliott was in a dead heat until Tuesday.

"Yeah, it was a big decision before Elliott got hurt. But we're pretty hopeful that he's going to be able to back up tomorrow and get himself ready, but we're not 100 percent," Hitchcock said.

Halak, who went on that magical run with the Montreal Canadiens in 2010 in which he helped knock out Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington and Alex Ovechkin, then backed it up by eliminating Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins before succumbing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, will get his first crack at the postseason since that run. He was 9-9 with a 2.55 GAA and .923 save percentage in that playoff season.

"I think it's going to be a good battle. I'm excited," Halak said. "We'll see how it goes. One game at a time. Tomorrow is Game 1 and we need to focus on that one.

"That [playoff run in 2010 is] in the past. Right now is the present. I just need to play simple, play my game and we'll see how it goes. I know in the playoffs, it's a little different game that the regular season, but you still have to do the same job, stop the puck and help the guys. ... Just play and have fun. Don't put any extra pressure on yourself."

Halak, who was 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .956 save percentage against the Sharks this season, was mentally prepared no matter who Hitchcock was going with.

"No matter whoever [started], we need to play as a team and we need to play for 60 minutes or 60-plus or whatever it takes to win the game," Halak said. "I don't think it matters whoever is the guy. I think both of the goalies needed to prepare the same way, no matter if you play or not. It's still the same approach."

But going against the big-bodied Sharks, Halak is ready to go to battle.

"Playoffs is a different thing than the regular season," Halak said. "I never played them in the playoffs, but we know their team, we know their personality. I know they will probably shoot he puck and [try to] create some rebounds and always put somebody in front of me or Ells. We'll see what happens. One game at a time. We'll see what it brings tomorrow."


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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:17 PM

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

Sharks know special teams will be crucial

SAN JOSE – It should come as no surprise that the San Jose Sharks are spending plenty of time working on their penalty kill and power play as they prepare to face the St. Louis Blues in a first-round playoff series that begins Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

San Jose's special teams were a disaster zone during the regular series against the Blues, who won all four games by a combined score of 11-3.

The Sharks went 1-for-15 on the power play. The lowlight came during a 1-0 loss on Dec. 10 in St. Louis, when the Sharks went 0-for-6.

San Jose's penalty kill, which ranked 29th this season, was equally bad. The Sharks killed just 14 of 19 power plays against St. Louis. Five of the Blues' 11 goals in the series came on the power play. In the Blues two most recent wins over San Jose, they scored two of their three goals via the man advantage.

"You definitely can build momentum or lose it at times through special teams," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said Tuesday after a long practice. "We haven't really had a great special teams season against these guys. We're going over a few things, seeing where we can attack them, where they've been really good against us. It's still going to come down to that moment, winning the one-on-one battles, making a play, hitting a shot, all those things that come down to it.  But many series, special teams are pretty important. It's definitely going to go a long ways in this series."

Three of the Blues' power-play goals came when they had two-man advantages.

"We gave them too many 5-on-3s," Pavelski said. "That's never easy. So stay sharp there. Get one early. We don't want to be a couple games behind then find our power play. We need to find it early and put them on their heels."

The Sharks' power play ranked second overall in the regular season, and the Blues' penalty kill ranked No. 7. San Jose knows it will be a challenge to convert when the opportunity arises.

"Their penalty kill is exceptional," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It's been the best for the last two months, the best in the League. It starts with their two goaltenders and the way they play. They're aggressive. They have a confidence level that's very high in there. It will be a very big challenge for our power play and we've spent a lot of time in those situations the past two days."

St. Louis scored the first goal in all four of the regular-season meetings, and the Sharks enjoyed a lead for just one brief stint during a 4-2 loss on Oct. 15 at HP Pavilion. Defenseman Brent Burns put San Jose ahead 2-1 at 11:18 of the second period. Kent Huskins tied it with a goal at 4:33 of the third, and the Blues scored two more unanswered goals en route to victory.

Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said the defensive-minded Blues "clamp down" even harder when they get the lead.

"We have to try to get to a lead, play with the lead and force them to maybe try some different things or do some different things that way, but I'm suspecting they're going to play the same way whether they're up or down," Marleau said.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:06 PM

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

Sharks preparing for both Halak, Elliott

SAN JOSE – One of the biggest first-round playoff mysteries for the San Jose Sharks – which St. Louis Blues goaltender they'll face in the opener on Thursday night – cleared up a bit  Tuesday.

Throughout the season, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott formed a two-headed goaltending monster for the Blues, but Elliott missed the second of two practices Tuesday with a upper-body injury he suffered late in the regular season and, according to St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, is day-to-day.

Although Hitchcock downplayed the injury and said Elliott is healthy enough to play, the Blues called up goaltender Jake Allen from Peoria of the American Hockey League.

"We'll prepare for both," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We all know what the injury thing is like at this time of the year with coaching staffs and teams. So we'll prepare for both."

On Monday, Hitchcock said he wouldn't reveal his starting goaltender until Thursday. On Tuesday, however, he said he'd announce his starter on Wednesday.

The Sharks lost twice to Halak and twice to Elliott. Each goaltender had one shutout against San Jose.
Does it matter which Blues goaltender the Sharks face?

"I don't think it really does because they're fairly {much} the same goalie, it seems like it," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "They have similar numbers. From there you just got to play. When you get your chance, you're not really caring if it's Elliott or Halak because there's not too big of a difference between them."

McLellan was asked if the Blues are a different team depending on which goalie starts.

"Their team doesn't play any different. Their goalies are a little bit different size-wise and the ability to play the puck and that type of stuff," McLellan said. "That's a situation that we're aware of, that they have the two, that they're capable of playing two – a little bit like the [Mark] Sanchez-[Tim] Tebow situation in New York, two very good quarterbacks that both want to play.

"I guess the trick there is figuring out who the team is comfortable playing in front of and playing that guy. Sometimes it's a hard thing for a coach to do. There's no doubt that I know in our group we feel more comfortable in front of one than the other, not that the other isn't capable, but there's a security blanket there. Which one is it there?"

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi started the final 21 games. Backup Thomas Greiss hasn't started since Feb. 26.

On the Sharks' injury front, defenseman Brent Burns returned to practice Tuesday after missing Monday's workout, when he took what McLellan called a "maintenance day."

Forward Ryane Clowe, however, missed a second straight day for an undisclosed injury.

"I'm assuming he's playing," McLellan said of Clowe. "He's had a couple maintenance days. I think when we put the gear on, you'll see Ryane Clowe out there."

McLellan said he expects Clowe to practice before the Sharks open the series Thursday night.

"I believe he will. That will be up to him and how he's feeling," McLellan said.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 1:52 PM

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

Hitchcock downplays news of Elliott injury

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Maybe Ken Hitchcock's selection of a goalie for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the San Jose Sharks became easier with the news of Brian Elliott's upper-body injury.

But Hitchcock said it's nothing that will alter a decision as to who starts, because Elliott is in play along with Jaroslav Halak. The injury is one that Hitchcock said, "is from weeks ago when he fell into the net."

The Blues had a double practice session that lasted 90 minutes. They split the time up and Elliott was on the ice for the first session. He took a good amount of work, but the team decided to keep him off the ice when they returned.

"He's got a little bit of an upper-body issue, day-to-day," Hitchcock added. "Rather than just try to squeeze the big, long [practice], we took him [out after] the short one and we'll get him back out here tomorrow or the next day and see how it is. He'll be fine, though.

"We didn't want to aggravate it. We've been nursing it for a week. We didn't want to take him too far down the lineup. He got a lot of work in the first 45 minutes."

Elliott led the NHL in goals-against average (1.56) and save percentage (.940) this season after going 23-10-4. Hitchcock said Elliott will still be up for selection for Thursday's opener.

"It's more maintenance," Hitchcock said. "We've been nursing this thing for a week now. It's not a big deal. We knew how long this day was going to be and we just felt like, 'Man, why cool a guy down?' If we're going to continue to practice at this tempo, we might bring a third guy in."

The team recalled Jake Allen from Peoria of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis but only to participate in the practices. Hitchcock has moved up a day for naming a starter after initially saying he would wait until Thursday morning.

"I'm going to move it up a day so you guys can write about something," Hitchcock said, joking. "I'll give it to you on Wednesday. I'm going to give you a little treat."

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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 7:54 PM

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

Mitchell returns to practice, will play in Game 1 for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell returned to the ice Monday after missing the regular-season finale Saturday night against Los Angeles with an undisclosed injury, but forward Ryane Clowe and defenseman Brent Burns missed practice as the Sharks began preparing for their first-round series against St. Louis.

The series opens Thursday night at the Scottrade Center.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Clowe and Burns had "maintenance" days and added, "They'll both be ready to play."
 
Torrey Mitchell
Center - SJS
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 19
SOG: 100 | +/-: -6
Mitchell was injured Thursday night at Los Angeles when he took a hard hit from Colin Fraser in the first period. He left that game and didn't return. Mitchell declared himself "good to go" after Monday's practice.

"I felt fine," Mitchell said. "I biked two days ago and I felt fine. I'm pretty much ready to go."

Clowe didn't play in the third period or overtime of San Jose's 3-2 victory against Los Angeles on Saturday night at HP Pavilion. Neither did defenseman Colin White, who practiced on Monday. After that game, McLellan said Clowe and White needed a "maintenance period" and granted them one.

Clowe declined to say whether he suffered an injury against the Kings, but he said he "was fine" with McLellan's decision to keep him off the ice for the end of Saturday's game and Monday's practice.

"I stayed off. I feel good," Clowe said.

Before the series opens Thursday night at St. Louis, the Sharks will have had three full practices and a morning skate to prepare for the Blues. After losing all four regular-season games to St. Louis in regulation, the Sharks have plenty of tactical work to do. McLellan said he also wants to make sure his team keeps the sharp edge it developed during its playoff push. The Sharks won their final four regular-season games, beating Dallas and Los Angeles in back-to-back, home-and-home series sweeps.

"We do that physically and mentally," McLellan said of both goals. "Visually, we see some video of us and them, we talk about how we want to play, and that's been established since the beginning of the year. It's just maintaining it, and then physically just practice situations, as much game situation play as we possibly can that's both unique to our team and maybe to what we'll see in the series."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he won't name his starting goaltender – Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott – until Thursday, but the Sharks likely don't have a preference. They lost twice to Halak and twice to Elliott. Each one shut them out once.

"They're just both elite goaltenders," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "You're going to have to work to get your goals. It's going to be a low-scoring affair. It's going to be 2-1 games, 1-0 games, and that's what we have to expect."

The Sharks will wear their alternate black jerseys for their home playoff games. They were 12-2-0 this season when dressed in black.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Blues, Sharks to play Game 1 Thursday night

St. Louis and San Jose will open their Western Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

The Blues and Sharks will drop the puck at 7:30 ET. Game 1 will be broadcast nationally on CNBC in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
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Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp