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Sharks start three-game trip in St. Louis

by Corey Masisak /

SHARKS (15-9-1) at BLUES (16-9-3)

TV: CSN-California (HD), FS-Midwest (HD)

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

Season Series: The Blues won the first meeting of the season, 4-2 at HP Pavilion on Oct. 15. The Sharks have won 18 of 25 meetings since the start of the 2005-06 season.

Big Story: Both of these teams have recovered from slow starts and hope to continue strong play of late to remain in the top eight in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Sharks: After losing to Florida and Minnesota, two of the NHL's surprise teams, San Jose rebounded Thursday for a convincing 5-2 victory against the Dallas Stars. The win pulled the Sharks even in points with the Stars and left them only two behind the Phoenix Coyotes for first place in the Pacific Division.

This is the first of three games on the road for the Sharks, with trips to Chicago on Sunday and Colorado on Tuesday. After that, San Jose will have six straight at the Shark Tank, which could be a chance for the team to get on a roll and re-establish itself as the favorite in what might end up as the best division in the League this season.

Blues: St. Louis has already had a strong homestand, defeating the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday and Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. A win against the Sharks would give St. Louis a three-game sweep of teams expected to be among the top clubs in the conference before the season started.

The biggest positive during this stint at home is the increased offense. The Blues had gone eight games without scoring more than two goals in regulation before getting three against the Wings and four in a 4-2 win against the Ducks. Part of that is new coach Ken Hitchcock's system, but even with his preferred style winning games 2-1 or 1-0 in not easy.

Who's Hot: San Jose's Logan Couture got off to a slow start in his sophomore campaign, but he's scored four goals in the past three games and has nine points (five goals) in his past 10 contests. … St. Louis' surge has been powered by stout goaltending. After a so-so start, Jaroslav Halak has allowed 17 goals in his past nine starts and Brian Elliott has yielded 12 in eight starts, going 7-1-0 in those contests.

Injury Report: San Jose was without a pair of defensemen Thursday -- Douglas Murray has missed two games because of a hand injury and Jim Vandermeer was out with an upper-body injury. They are questionable against the Blues. Backup goaltender Antero Niittymaki is out until January because of hip surgery. … Blues center Andy McDonald is out of the lineup with a concussion. Defenseman Kent Huskins is missing because of a broken ankle. Right wing B.J. Crombeen has not played since the preseason because of a shoulder injury.

Stat Pack: San Jose is typically one of the top scoring teams in the NHL, so ranking 13th with 2.80 goals per game is a bit of a concern -- but not nearly as much as the team's 30th-ranked penalty-killing unit (74.0 percent). Not surprisingly given the strong play of late from Halak and the season-long excellence of Elliott, the Blues are among the League leaders in team goals against average (second at 1.99), save percentage (tied for sixth at .924) and shutouts (tied for first with four).

Puck Drop: This game will have some extra significance for Blues forward David Perron. It will be the first time he faces the Sharks since a hit by San Jose captain Joe Thornton knocked him out for more than a year (97 games) because of a concussion.

"I think it will be weird a little bit at first, but after the first few ships it's just going to be another game," Perron told the Post-Dispatch. "It was just unfortunate what happened a year ago, but I've moved on."

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