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Blues wrap up trip in San Jose

by John Kreiser
BLUES (32-30-9) at SHARKS (41-23-8)

TV -- FS-Midwest (HD); CSN-California (HD)

Last 10 -- St. Louis 4-6-0; San Jose 6-2-2

Season series -- It's the fourth and final meeting, with the Sharks ahead 2-1-0. St. Louis beat San Jose 2-0 at home on Nov. 4, but the Sharks won 4-1 in St. Louis on Dec. 18 and 4-2 at HP Pavilion on Jan. 15.

Big story -- The nine weeks between visits from the Blues have marked a sea change for the Sharks, who began a drive that has carried them to the top spot in the Pacific Division when they knocked off the Blues in mid-January. St. Louis is going to miss the playoff, largely because of injuries have played havoc with the offense.

Team Scope:

Blues -- St. Louis is all but officially eliminated from the playoff race -- it's 10 points behind eighth-place Calgary -- but that doesn't mean the Blues are rolling over for anyone. They embarrassed the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday night, limiting them to six shots through two periods and 17 overall, making life easy for goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

"From a standpoint of executing and the details of the game -- making sure the puck is in the right spot, making sure we kept things to the outside, blocked shots and got in the right spots with the sticks and the passing lanes so that we created our own opportunities to attack from defensive play - that was something we talked about," coach Davis Payne said.

Sharks -- The 4-2 win in the Blues' last visit to the Shark Tank marked the start of the Sharks' resurgence. Since then, San Jose is 19-4-3 and has climbed on top of the Pacific Division. They Sharks have won their last two, including a 3-2 victory against Minnesota on Thursday that saw them outshoot the Wild 50-30. Patrick Marleau's tie-breaking power-play goal five minutes into the third period gave the Sharks the win.

"It was a good time for the power play to step up," Marleau told the Sharks' website. "(Wild goaltender Niklas) Backstrom was really good on their side and we finally got through. We stuck with it and it paid off. You can't stop shooting."

Who's hot -- Sharks center Joe Pavelski has 6 assists in his last two games. Marleau leads the Sharks with 28 goals and has six game-winners since Feb. 1.

Injury report --
St. Louis defenseman Nikita Niklin (upper body) will sit out with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Barret Jackman (finger) and centers Alex Steen (ankle) and David Perron (concussion) are out for the season. … Sharks forward Dany Heatley will sit out the second of his two-game suspension. Defenseman Niclas Wallin (head) sat out Thursday's game, didn't skate Friday and isn't expected to play against the Blues. Defenseman Kent Huskins (upper body) and forward Scott Nichol are still out. … Coach Todd McLellan will miss the game to attend his brother-in-law's funeral. Assistant Trent Yawney will fill in.

Stat pack -- The Sharks are 9-1-2 in their last 12 home games against the Blues. … San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi beat the Blues on Jan. 15 and has started every game since then; this will be his 28th in a row.

Puck drop -- San Jose, long known as one of the NHL's bigger teams, is getting good production from its smallest line -- Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood.

"Three pieces that you wouldn't think fit together, but they do," McLellan told the team's website. "Mitchy's playing with a ton of confidence right now. Pavs is in the middle with the faceoffs and puck possession. The puck just follows Kyle Wellwood around and it's never at a risk defensively."

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