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Sharks one win from first trip to Cup Final

Blues get Upshall back for Game 6; hope to extend series

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent

Game 6: BLUES at SHARKS

Western Conference Final

San Jose leads best-of-7 series 3-2

TV: 9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports


SAN JOSE -- Forward Scottie Upshall, who missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup for the St. Louis Blues against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Wednesday.

The Sharks can advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a victory. The Blues will play an elimination game for the third time in the playoffs this year. They beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 in the first round and the Dallas Stars in Game 7 in the second round.

"We found ourselves up against the wall twice this season and been able to find our game, find it deep within, what it takes to win these games and what it's like, the pressure that goes with it," Upshall said. "I think our team's pretty confident. We found ourselves elevating our game when we need to, and this is another case. Treat this like two Game 7s and see where it goes."

Upshall is expected to replace Magnus Paajarvi, who played in each of the past three games, on the fourth line. Paajarvi remained on the ice late during an optional morning skate.

"He's healthy now," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Upshall. "He's got speed, he's got tenacity, he's great on PK. I can play him up the lineup end of periods, game's on the line. I can play him anywhere. He's an invaluable player for us. He's had an excellent year for us. He's a guy that we can really use. This time off has afforded him the time to get ready to play."

Goaltender Brian Elliott, who started the Blues first 17 playoff games, will start after backing up Jake Allen in Games 4 and 5. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said the rest should help Elliott in Game 6.

"Reset him a bit," Pietrangelo said. "He's played a lot of hockey, made some important saves for us throughout this entire playoffs. He's played great for us, stood on his head. That takes a lot of energy. So the opportunity to kind of regain that is going to benefit him."

The Sharks expect the Blues to play with desperation.

"We feel confident in our building," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "To have it at home for Game 6 with a chance to close it out, it's definitely one of those moments, you know they're treating it like a Game 7. The desperation's going to be high, and you just have to be able to match that if you want to have a chance."

Sharks center Logan Couture said the Blues have continued to play better as the series has gone deeper.

"So we've got to match what they're going to bring and be better than they are," Couture said.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - David Backes

Dmitrij Jaskin - Kyle Brodziak - Scottie Upshall

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: None

Scratched: Magnus Paajarvi, Steve Ott, Robert Bortuzzo Ryan Reaves, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie

SHARKS

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joonas Donskoi

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Joel Ward                                                         

Dainius Zubrus - Nick Spaling - Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Roman Polak

Martin Jones

James Reimer

Injured: Matt Nieto (upper body)

Scratched: Michael Haley, Dylan DeMelo, Matt Tennyson

Status report: Hitchcock said he'll have a "short leash" for his forwards and defensemen and won't hesitate to shorten his bench. "For us, we can't wait and hope," Hitchcock said. "If we've got to shorten the bench, we've got to shorten the bench and do whatever it takes to make sure we've got the right people on the ice and we're not hoping that a guy's a worker or a guy's going to play well and execute." ... After shutouts in Games 2 and 3, Jones has allowed seven goals on 40 shots the past two games. He was pulled midway through the second period of Game 4 after giving up four goals. "He's been great all year, all playoffs," Couture said. "We have confidence in him every night. We expect him to go out and play the way he has this year." ... Nieto skated again but is expected to miss his seventh straight game.

Who's hot: Pavelski has a six-game point streak (four goals, five assists) and leads the League with 12 goals in the playoffs. He's tied with Couture for the League lead in points with 21. ... Thornton has six assists in his past three games and 17 points for the playoffs (three goals, 14 assists). ... Brouwer has three goals over his past two games and eight in the playoffs. ... Fabbri leads the Blues with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) and had a goal in Game 5.

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