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At The Rink

Sharks aim to continue road success at Blues

St. Louis returns home seeking spark on offense

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

SHARKS (26-19-4) at BLUES (29-16-8) 

TV: CSN-CA, FS-MW, NHL.TV

ST. LOUIS -- It's a unique situation that Western Conference foes are playing for the first time against one another this deep into a season. 

That's the case for the St. Louis Blues, who will host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, FS-MW, NHL.TV). 

It's the 53rd game for the Blues and 50th for the Sharks, but they haven't gone against one another since Jan. 8, 2015. 

"They're new because we haven't played them for a while, but they're not new with their personnel," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Sharks. "They've got those good players that have been in the League a long time, keep playing well. Every year, it's the same four, five guys leading their team. They obviously have one of the best, if not the best road records in the League because they know how to play the game the right way and they know how to manage the game the right way. It'll be a big challenge for us. It'll be a big wakeup call coming from playing against Nashville to coming and playing this one." 

The Sharks, who will play the second of a four-game trip Thursday, are tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the best road record in the Western Conference (16-7-2). 

"I think we have a group of guys that has won a lot of games on the road over the last 10 years, veteran guys that lead the way," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "There's no excuses in the dressing room, travel, getting in at 4 or 5 o'clock on the morning. You never hear any complaining. They just deal with it and move on and when your best players have that mindset, everyone else follows. 

"It's hard not to be [impressed]. You can see why the core group's won so many games here over the last decade. The young guys are following and we like where we're at right now." 

The Blues scored four goals during a four-game road trip but went 2-1-1 thanks to goalie Brian Elliott, who allowed four goals in the four games. 

"Results are what's important," said Blues right wing Troy Brouwer, who scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win at the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. "The goals will come and we've been able to score timely goals all season long. We want to score more goals, but they're going to come. Scoring throughout the entire League is down and we've had a lot of injuries, which creates a lot of new line combinations. A little bit of unfamiliarity between guys. I think with jumbling lines again, hopefully we can do something to spark some creative output." 

DeBoer calls this game a challenge and isn't looking at the Blues' lack of scoring. 

"Typical Ken Hitchcock-coached team, they're going to be detailed, they're going to be tight, you're going to have to earn your ice," DeBoer said. "It's that time of year. I think whenever you do into some of the better teams' conference's buildings, I think everybody's battle level and compete level is very high right now. That's our expectation that ours is going to be there every night like that. Games are going to come down to who plays the cleanest game, who makes the fewest mistakes. It's that push to the playoffs. That's the kind of hockey you're looking at." 

Here are the projected lineups: 

SHARKS 

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski   

Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels   

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Joel Ward   

Dainius Zubrus - Chris Tierney - Melker Karlsson   

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun   

Paul Martin - Brent Burns   

Brenden Dillon - Dylan DeMelo   

Martin Jones  

Alex Stalock  

Injured: None   

Scratched: Mike Brown, Matt Tennyson  

BLUES 

Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko  

Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes  

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Troy Brouwer 

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Dmitrij Jaskin  

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo  

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk  

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko  

Brian Elliott 

Pheonix Copley  

Injured: Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Jake Allen (knee), Steve Ott (hamstring) 

Scratched: Ryan Reaves, Robert Bortuzzo  

Status report: Schwartz was on the ice during an optional skate Thursday but is not ready to rejoin the lineup. He will miss his 47th game but could play Saturday. 

Who's hot: Thornton has 48 points (11 goals, 37 assists) in 44 games against St. Louis. ... Stastny has 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists) in 30 games against San Jose.

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