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Blues vs Sharks - 2012 Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinals

Five reasons the Sharks are going home

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- What started as a season filled with promise for the San Jose Sharks ended with the fastest exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in team history.

The Sharks reached the Western Conference Final in each of the past two seasons. But instead of taking the next step in their quest to win the Stanley Cup for the first time, the Sharks lost their quarterfinals series to St. Louis in just five games this year.

The Blues ended the series Saturday night at Scottrade Center with a 3-1 win in Game 5.

“It's a terrible feeling right now,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after the loss. “Hats off to the Blues. They played great. But it sucks right now.”

Here are the five biggest reasons why the Sharks' quest for the Stanley Cup came up woefully short.

1. Offensive pullback

The Sharks scored only eight goals in five playoff games against St. Louis, but their problems putting the puck in the net didn't just emerge in the postseason. One season after ranking sixth in the NHL at 2.96 goals per game, the Sharks dropped to No. 13 at 2.67. They scored only 228 goals, 20 fewer than the past season.

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Blues' belief in Hitchcock's message led to win

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- When Ken Hitchcock was brought in to help right the ship for the Blues in early November, what impressed the 60-year-old was that the team immediately embraced what he was preaching.

Often, it takes time for players to adjust to a new message.

But the Blues, who eliminated the San Jose Sharks in five games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals with a win Saturday night, continue to receive Hitchcock's message well.

The Sharks, a team many predicted before the season as a contender for the Stanley Cup, were humbled in a series that was as close as the scores indicated.

The Blues always seemed a step ahead of the playoff-hardened Sharks, entering uncharted waters by winning the franchise's first playoff series since 2002.

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Blues eager for chance to close out Sharks

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. -- As the Blues stepped off their team charter and onto familiar ground for the first time since leaving St. Louis five days earlier, they come back with a chance to win a playoff series for the first time in a decade.

The Blues' two wins in San Jose put them on the brink of eliminating an experienced team that's been to the conference finals in consecutive seasons -- and one that came into this season with high hopes of challenging for the Stanley Cup.

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Changes coming to Sharks' lineup

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE – The San Jose Sharks will likely have two new players in their lineup – both of them ex-Blues – and different combinations on their top two lines Thursday night for Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against St. Louis.

Forward Brad Winchester replaced TJ Galiardi on the fourth line and skated with center Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels during practice Wednesday. Michal Handzus replaced Dominic Moore and centered the third line, flanked by Daniel Winnik and Torrey Mitchell.

Patrick Marleau, meanwhile, moved from top line wing to second line center. Logan Couture switched from second line center to first line wing, flanking Joe Thornton.

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Elliott to start for Blues again in Game 4

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSEBrian Elliott will make his second straight Thursday night at HP Pavilion for the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the San Jose Sharks, coach Ken Hitchcock said Tuesday.

Brian Elliott
Goalie - STL
RECORD: 1-0-0
GAA: 1.82 | SVP: 0.935
Hitchcock ruled out injured goaltender Jaroslav Halak for Game 4. Halak hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury early in the second period of Game 2, when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidentally skated into him at high speed.

The Blues, who beat the Sharks 4-3 on Monday night to take a 2-1 series lead, held an optional off-ice workout, but Halak spent some time on the ice.

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Sharks remain confident despite 2-1 deficit

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE – If the San Jose Sharks are searching for inspiration after digging a 2-1 hole in their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against St. Louis, they know where to look.

The Sharks were down 2-1 two years ago in a first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche. Then they won three straight games -- two of those on the road -- captured the series and went all the way to the Western Conference Final.

Of course, the Sharks were the No. 1 seed in 2010 and are seeded seventh this time around, but they're still drawing on that experience of coming back in the postseason.

After splitting the first two games of the series at St. Louis, the Sharks lost 4-3 Monday night on home ice at HP Pavilion. They trailed 3-1 after two periods and 4-1 early in the third – giving up three goals on the power play – before waging a comeback in the final three minutes on goals by Colin White and Logan Couture.

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Five reasons Los Angeles is poised for an upset

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- The 44-year history of the Los Angeles Kings can be crystalized into two high points: the Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon-led teams of the late 1970s and the Wayne Gretzky teams of the early 1990s.

The latter is a jumping-off point for most Kings fans. Gretzky had the town in the palm of his hand when he led the Kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, their lone trip to the championship round.

Since then? One playoff series victory -- none since 2001.

That's why Staples Center was bedlam on Sunday night after L.A. took a 3-0 series lead for the first time in franchise history, against the favored Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Los Angeles is not only on the verge of a series win, it's close to becoming the ninth No. 8 seed to upset a No.1 seed since the League went to its current playoff format in 1993.

Here's a five reasons why the Kings are poised to pull off a huge series upset.

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Halak ruled out for Game 3

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSESt. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock ruled out injured goaltender Jaroslav Halak for Game 3 Monday night of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Blues, Hitchcock said Sunday at HP Pavilion. Jake Allen, who was recalled late Saturday from Peoria of the American Hockey League, will serve as Elliott's backup.

Halak suffered a lower-body injury early in the second period of the Blues' 3-0 win against San Jose on Saturday night when St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman collided with him near the crease. Elliott took over and completed the shutout.

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Sharks focused on wins, not fists

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE – The San Jose Sharks will be looking for some payback – on the scoreboard, not the fight card – Monday night at HP Pavilion when they face the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Sharks suffered a 3-0 loss Saturday night at Scottrade Center in an emotionally-charged game that had a combined 132 penalty minutes, 88 of those stemming from a brawl at the third-period buzzer that featured three fights and two game misconducts.

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Blues, Sharks getting physical in first two games

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

Considering the buildup that took place Saturday night between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, maybe the end result was the climax of what both teams feel will be a a rugged and physical series as it becomes a race to three.

The fallout of the Blues' 3-0 win means this: when the teams shift gears and move out West to San Jose and HP Pavilion, strap your seat belts because whoever moves on to the Western Conference Semifinals will be battered and bruised.

"I'm sure it's going to be physical," Blues captain David Backes said. "That's playoff hockey. It's physical and every battle's huge. It's one shift at a time and take it as it goes. Whoever can stay with their game plan the longest is going to have success."

The Blues were not necessarily in a must-win mode, but going down 0-2 and heading on the road needing to win four of five games was not in their best interests. So when the temperature rose, the Blues elevated themselves up the mercury meter and matched San Jose's grit when it mattered.

"We had to win this game at home and there was a lot of fire in the guys," Blues winger Andy McDonald said. "Everybody stood up for each other, so it was a great sign."

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Quote of the Day

It was pretty unbelievable...I think (my family in France) is pretty much in front of the TV right now. I don't think I have to wake them up.

— 29-year-old Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare after scoring his first NHL goal
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