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5 Keys: Blues at Sharks, Game 1

St. Louis aims to continue road success in West Final; San Jose faces Binnington for first time

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

BLUES at SHARKS

8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

The San Jose Sharks host the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Saturday.

The Sharks and Blues are each coming off a victory in Game 7 in the second round; San Jose defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Wednesday, and St. Louis defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in double overtime on Tuesday.

The teams have played five times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Sharks winning three of those series, including the most recent, the 2016 conference final, in six games.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]

 

"We understand we are halfway there," San Jose captain Joe Pavelski said. "There's a lot of things going, where we have a great team coming in and our focus has to stay there in front of us right now. It's only going to get tougher."

The Sharks won two of the three games against the Blues in the regular season; each team had a 4-0 shutout, and San Jose won the other game 3-2 in overtime.

"It's going to be a challenge no matter what," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said, "and I think that's expected." 

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:

 

1. Will home ice matter?

The Sharks have a playoff-best six home wins (6-2) and have outscored opponents 31-22. The Blues have a playoff-best five road wins (5-1) and have outscored opponents 19-14.

"Home-ice advantage is awesome," Sharks forward Kevin Labanc said. "We've worked so hard all season to obtain that, and it makes the biggest difference. The past two Game 7 games (at home against the Vegas Golden Knights and Avalanche), it was unbelievable for us."

St. Louis won each of the three games at Winnipeg in the first round and two of three at Dallas in the second round.

"Just kind of stick with it," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "No special recipe. Just make sure we continue to play a full 60 and just stick together, and I think that's our best road game."

 

2. New test for Binnington

Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington was 24-5-1 this season but has never faced the Sharks.

"I don't know if that matters a ton," San Jose goalie Martin Jones said. "I never knew [Binnington] or watched him play or anything. I didn't know much about him, but you've seen it more and more now young guys are able to step in, jump into the NHL right away."

Jones won his only start this season against St. Louis, a 3-2 overtime victory March 9 at home; he's 5-4-0 in nine regular-season games against them and was 4-2 in the 2016 conference final.

 

3. Blues forwards against Sharks defensemen

The Blues averaged 2.98 goals per game in the regular season. That's dropped to 2.62 per game in the playoffs, and St. Louis expects a tough matchup against the San Jose defensemen.

Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have been the Sharks' shutdown pair; they limited the Avalanche's top three forwards of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in seven games in the second round. Burns and Vlasic likely will play against the Blues' top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko.

"The three of us together are just trying to find chemistry," Schenn said. "It's going to be a tough series, we are going to have a tough matchup. ... You play against D like that, you've got to try and make it as difficult as possible."

 

4. Similar styles

The Blues and Sharks play a similar game, so it's not surprising that San Jose outscored St. Louis by one goal (7-6) in the three regular-season games.

"I think both teams are deep," Parayko said. "Both teams have definitely a lot of talent up front and some D-men that are able to chip in offensively. ... The goalies have been really good for both sides too. I think it's a good matchup."

 

5. Getting power play on track

Each team enters the series looking to improve with the man-advantage.

The Blues were 2-for-22 (9.1 percent) against the Stars in the second round and are 7-for-41 (17.1 percent) in the playoffs.

The Sharks were 2-for-20 (10 percent) against the Avalanche in the second round and are 10-for-54 (18.5 percent) in the playoffs.

 

Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Brayden Schenn -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Sammy Blais -- Ryan O'Reilly -- David Perron

Pat Maroon -- Tyler Bozak -- Robert Thomas

Ivan Barbashev -- Oskar Sundqvist -- Alexander Steen

Joel Edmundson -- Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester -- Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn -- Carl Gunnarsson

Jordan Binnington

Jake Allen

Scratched: Robby Fabbri, Robert Bortuzzo, Michael Del Zotto, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn, Ville Husso

 

Sharks projected lineup

Timo Meier -- Logan Couture - Gustav Nyquist

Evander Kane -- Tomas Hertl -- Joe Pavelski 

Marcus Sorensen -- Joe Thornton -- Kevin Labanc

Joonas Donskoi -- Barclay Goodrow -- Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon -- Erik Karlsson

Joakim Ryan -- Justin Braun

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched: Micheal Haley, Dylan Gambrell, Tim Heed, Lukas Radil, Radim Simek, Antti Suomela

 

Status report

Neither team is expected to have a morning skate. With no injuries, each team is likely to use the same lineup from Game 7 of the second round.

 

LISTEN: New episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast

 

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