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Blues, Sharks looking for offense

by Dan Rosen
BLUES (40-18-7) at SHARKS (33-23-7)

TV: FS-Midwest (HD), CSN-California (HD)

LAST 10:
St. Louis 6-4-0; San Jose 3-6-1

Season Series:
The Blues are looking for the season sweep of the Sharks. They won the first three meetings, all in regulation, including a pair of shutouts in St. Louis and a 4-2 win at HP Pavilion in San Jose on Oct. 15.

Big Story: Both teams are in the playoff race but are coming off shutout losses Thursday. The Blues were blanked 2-0 in Vancouver, while the Sharks lost 1-0 at home to Buffalo. The Blues are battling the Red Wings for first in the Central Division and enter the weekend three points behind the Canucks for first in the Western Conference. The Sharks hit the weekend two points behind the Coyotes for first in the Pacific Division, but just three points out of ninth place in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Blues: They had their four-game winning streak snapped at Rogers Arena on Thursday as the Canucks scored twice in the third period, including an empty-net goal by Chris Higgins. Brian Elliott made 22 saves, but suffered his third straight loss. He's only given up seven goals in those three defeats.

Elliott said after the game in Vancouver that the Blues were looking at it as a measuring-stick game.

"We didn't measure up," he said.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said his team ran out of gas in the third period as the Canucks kept coming up at them. It was the second of back-to-back road games for the Blues, who won in Edmonton on Wednesday.

Sharks: San Jose ran into Ryan Miller on Thursday and the Sabres' goalie got the better of them, making 39 saves for his second shutout in as many nights. The Sharks also managed only one goal in a 1-0 win against Philadelphia on Tuesday.

All told, the Sharks have scored only 15 goals in their last eight games. They're 2-6-0 in that span.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton said the problem Thursday only partly was Miller's creation.

"Miller's a world-class goalie, and whatever he sees he usually stops," Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News, "but I don't think we had enough traffic in front of him."

Who's Hot: It's hard to say in this case as neither team scored a goal Thursday. However, Sharks goalie Antti Niemi has stopped 44 of 45 shots in back-to-back starts since getting pulled after giving up three goals on seven shots in less than 16 minutes against Nashville last weekend. And, Blues center Andy McDonald had 4 points in the three games prior to the 2-0 loss to Vancouver.

Injury Report: The Blues still are missing Alexander Steen (concussion), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Kris Russell (concussion), and Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot). … The Sharks are dealing with a slew of injuries, including coach Todd McLellan, who sat out the last two games while dealing with concussion symptoms after taking a stick to the head last Sunday. Martin Havlat is skating, but remains out with a hamstring injury. Douglas Murray is dealing with a fractured Adam's apple and Logan Couture has missed two straight games with a lower-body injury.

Stat Pack: The Blues were shut out on Thursday for the first time since Dec. 31. In between that 3-0 loss to Detroit on New Year's Eve and the 2-0 loss to Vancouver this week, the Blues had seven shutout victories.

Puck Drop: "We only gave up one goal in two games and you should have two wins in that case," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe told the San Jose Mercury News. "If we play like this, we'll probably win 1-0 and 2-1 and that's how we're going to have to win."
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