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Blues playing with proper edge in San Jose

Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

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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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