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Blues, Sharks no strangers in playoffs

by Lou Korac /

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks will see plenty of familiar faces when they meet in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Saturday (7 p.m. CT; NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN).

The Blues and Sharks will face off in the conference final for the second time in four seasons; San Jose defeated St. Louis in six games in 2016.

Eleven St. Louis players who competed in that series return for this one, too. Goalie Jake Allen, defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Robert Bortuzzo, Carl Gunnarsson, Joel Edmundson and Jay Bouwmeester, and forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen and Robby Fabbri all were part of the 2016 playoff run, the Blues' deepest since 2001, and assistant coach Steve Ott played for the Blues three seasons ago.

San Jose also has 11 players returning from the 2016 conference final, including goalie Martin Jones, defensemen Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon, centers Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton and forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Coach Peter DeBoer remains as well.

"Deep team for sure, veteran team," Blues coach Craig Berube said of the Sharks on Thursday. "They're an experienced hockey team and they've had some guys that have been there for a long time and played together for a long time and had good success. "We have good experience too and we have a good group of young guys. We've got a good mixture here."

The Blues went 1-1-1 against San Jose this season, but two of those games were in November before St. Louis went on its second-half run to go from last place in the NHL on the morning of Jan. 3 to third place in the Central Division and now a finalist in the West. St. Louis won 4-0 at home on Nov. 9 before being shut out 4-0 Nov. 17 at San Jose. The Sharks won 3-2 in overtime at home on March 9.

Video: Blues on facing SJS in Western Conference Final

"They're a good veteran team that have been in situations," said forward Pat Maroon, who scored in double overtime of Game 7 in the second round to give the Blues a 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars. "They battle hard, they're a smart team. They kind of remind us of kind of our team. They're really good below the top of the circles, they're a high-powered offensive team and their back end is really strong.

"It's another good test for our group and I think we've just got to find ways to get to our game, really. They're a really good team that starts well at home and they're a really good home team."

Some of the new faces that will grace this series for St. Louis include Maroon, forwards David Perron, Robert Thomas and Oskar Sundqvist, centers Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn and Tyler Bozak, defenseman Vince Dunn and goalie and Calder Trophy finalist Jordan Binnington.

Playing in their first playoff series for the Sharks against the Blues will be defenseman Erik Karlsson and forwards Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen and Gustav Nyquist.

"They're a good hockey team, obviously playing good hockey right now," Schenn said. "It's going to be a tough series on us and we know that. "Those guys want to play on the rush, they want to play on the move. Karlsson and Burns, they're very good at it, so it's going to be up to us to grind them down."

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