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Sharks will be tested against Blues

San Jose prepares for tough matchup vs. St. Louis in Western Conference Final

by Eric Gillmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks know it will only get tougher in the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues after needing seven games to defeat the Nashville Predators in the second round.

"They're really, really good," Sharks center Joe Thornton said of the Blues after a 5-0 victory against the Predators in Game 7 at SAP Center on Thursday. "It's going to be a good test for us They knocked off some good teams so far. It's going to be a great test for us."

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

The Blues defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in seven games in the first round. Then they defeated the Dallas Stars, who won the Central Division with 109 points, in seven games in the second round.

"They're playing great," said Sharks center Logan Couture, who set a San Jose record for points in a playoff series with 11 (six goals, five assists) against Nashville. "St. Louis is a great hockey team. They have four lines that are contributing offensively. They have D-men that skate. Their goaltender is really good."

The Sharks advanced to the conference final for the fourth time in their history, but have never reached the Stanley Cup Final.

"We're halfway," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said of their quest to win the Cup. "We talked after that first series. It was a good win against [the Los Angeles Kings]. It never gets easier. These teams are all good right now. Good goalies. It feels good but we understand this was a second step. It feels good but we have to keep going."

San Jose went 2-1-0 against St. Louis during the regular season. The Sharks defeated the Blues twice in St. Louis, 3-1 and 6-3; the Blues defeated the Sharks 1-0 in San Jose.

"The parity in the league's pretty strong," Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said. "We know we're in for a battle."

The Sharks and Blues will play for the fifth time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They split the first two series, but St. Louis won the most recent meeting, eliminating San Jose in five games in the first round in 2012. That came one year after the Sharks most recent trip to the conference final.

"It's been a while since we've been to a conference final," Marleau said. "These opportunities don't come along every year. So we're happy about it, but we still want to continue to do well."

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