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5 Keys: Sharks at Blues, Game 5

San Jose must play with desperation; time for St. Louis forward Tarasenko to produce

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues play Game 5 of the Western Conference Final at Scottrade Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.

Here are 5 Keys for Game 5:

1. FILL THE VOID

Blues forwards David Backes and Robby Fabbri left Game 4 with injuries and did not skate Monday morning. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock indicated each will warm up and be game-time decisions. Will they play? If they do, how effective will they be?

Fabbri leads the Blues with 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Backes is tied with Vladimir Tarasenko and Troy Brouwer for first on the Blues with seven goals and is tied with Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz for second with 13 points.

"Nobody's sure what's really going to happen," Blues forward Kyle Brodziak said. "It's kind of the first time in the postseason that we've seen injuries and had to deal with them. If it does happen, it's kind of old hat for us if you look at the way the whole year went. I don't think we were fully healthy for any part of the season. Whatever happens, whoever gets a chance has the trust in all of us that they're going to make the best of the opportunity, and as a group we feel like we can all step up a little bit."

Video: Coach DeBoer is mic'd up for Game 4 at The Shark Tank

2. RETURN THE FAVOR

After the Sharks' 6-3 loss in Game 4, they said the Blues were simply more desperate because they had played poorly in Games 2 and 3, losing by a combined score of 7-0, and didn't want to go home facing a 3-1 series deficit.

Well, now it's the Sharks' turn to raise their desperation level after a poor performance. They don't want to go home facing a 3-2 series deficit.

"It's a funny thing about a seven-game series," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "So many storylines. Going into Game 4: 'Can the Blues do anything?' Now 60 minutes later: 'Can the Sharks do anything right?' But it's 2-2 in the series. It's incredible. You have ups and downs with a series like you do in the season. You can see that here. But both teams will be desperate tonight wanting that third one."

3. GET TARASENKO GOING

Tarasenko is tied for the Blues lead with seven goals and 13 points, but he has zero points in this series. The four-game drought is his longest of the playoffs.

He talked about listening to the coaches, putting his personal goals aside and playing the right way, and he did that in Game 4. But the Blues need him to produce, especially if they're missing Backes, Fabbri or both.

"I think he just has to stay with it," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think last game he made a lot of good plays away from the puck that we hadn't really seen him doing, plays like driving the middle on a rush. His forechecking was a lot better. Just those little things that in turn you always end up at the right place at the right time, and those goals start to come."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm2: Jones denies Tarasenko's chance

4. BE SPECIAL

The Sharks entered the series with the top power play among the conference finalists. Now the Blues have pulled ahead of them. They have been better on special teams in the series, going 3-for-13 on the power play and 13-for-15 on the penalty kill with a shorthanded goal.

In Game 4, the Blues scored twice on the power play with sharp passing, finding seams in the Sharks coverage, and they forced turnovers on the penalty kill. Shattenkirk said they "committed to making them feel uncomfortable."

The Sharks need to do a better job of denying zone entries, clearing pucks and closing seams on the PK, and they need to shoot more on the PP.

"We can definitely be better there," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "It's been a strong point in our game. You give up a shorthanded goal and a couple rushes, you don't want to give that up."

5. WIN THE RACE

The Sharks and Blues each want to do the same thing: diffuse the forecheck, get out of the defensive zone, generate speed through the neutral zone, get in on the forecheck, sustain pressure in the offensive zone and wear the other players down. The team that has scored the first goal has won each game in the series.

Each team wants to be the first to establish its will on the other.

"I'm sure they're going to look to make plays quicker, to kind of negate our pressure," Shattenkirk said. "That's what we did to them. It's going to be the team who's able to get to that game first."

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