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Sharks: Blues more than Tarasenko

San Jose not keying in just on 40-goal scorer in Western Conference Final

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues from 2006-14. He played for the Blues when they defeated San Jose in five games in the 2012 Western Conference First Round and dominated the series with a physical, heavy game.

The Blues still have plenty of size and muscle, but Polak said the Sharks will face a much different team this year in the Western Conference Final.

Game 1 is Sunday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"More skill," Polak said Saturday. "Guys who can score. A different situation now."

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko is at the top of that list of skilled goal scorers. He had 40 goals in the regular season, fourth most in the NHL, and 74 points. In the playoffs he has seven goals and 13 points.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm4: Tarasenko opens scoring on breakaway

"Obviously Tarasenko's a special talent, and you have to be aware of him, but we'd be making a mistake by just focusing on him," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think their forward group is as deep as any in the League.

"Arguably their best line last series was [Paul] Stastny, [Troy] Brouwer and [Robby] Fabbri, who's a young kid with (13) points already. They're a deep, deep team. We're going to be aware of Tarasenko, but we can't make the mistake of focusing on him because they've got a lot other weapons there that can burn you."

Tarasenko, the 16th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, scored eight goals as a rookie in 2012-13, 21 the next season and had 37 last season. Fabbri, the 21st pick in the 2014 draft, had 18 goals and 37 points this season as a rookie. He has three goals and 10 assists in the playoffs.

"Tarasenko's a great player," Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said. "Fabbri's got some skills. They have some guys that are bigger and move pretty well as well. It's something we've got to be aware of, taking time and space away from those guys and try to control the play on our end.

"You try to limit (Tarasenko) as best we can. That's what you try to do. Good players are going to be good players, even if you try and shut them down. I'm sure he'll get some opportunities, but it's about us limiting those and trying to keep him to the outside rather than the center of the ice."

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Berglund beats Lehtonen from the point

The Sharks had a spirited, high-tempo practice Saturday before traveling to St. Louis. Forwards Matt Nieto (undisclosed) and Joel Ward (maintenance) were the only Sharks not on the ice for the 30-minute practice.

DeBoer said Ward is fine. Nieto, who missed Game 7 of the second round against the Nashville Predators, is day-to-day.

"Getting better every day," DeBoer said of Nieto. "So we'll see. We'll see how he feels [Sunday] and make some decisions."

The Sharks were 2-1-0 against the Blues during the regular season, winning twice in St. Louis -- 3-1 on Feb. 5 and 6-3 on Feb. 22. San Jose lost 1-0 on March 22 at SAP Center when Blues goaltender Brian Elliott had a 37-save shutout.

"I think the key is just playing our game," Polak said. "We're going to stick with our game, what we showed in the first series and a little bit in the second series. When we were playing our game we were good. So I think if we bring our best, we're going to beat them."

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