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Struggling Sharks will attempt to solve Blues

by Matthew Mankiewich /
BLUES (21-16-6) at SHARKS (21-19-5)


Last 10 --
St. Louis 5-4-1; San Jose 2-8-0

Season series --
After splitting the first pair in St. Louis, the scene shifts to HP Pavilion for the next two.

Big story -- Neither team is a stranger to streakiness. The Blues have mixed seven- and five-game tears with three different five-game skids. The Sharks have a well-documented six-game slide overall and at home and will try to avoid losing a seventh straight for the first time since 1995.

Team scope:

Blues -- One way to stop a losing streak is to face an opponent that's struggling more than you are. After allowing 22 goals over their five-game losing streak and seven goals to the Ducks, they were able to clamp down on a sputtering Kings offense and get a 3-1 win for their effort. It was their first win of 2011 and their sixth against the Kings in their last seven meetings.

"Five (losses) is too many, clearly, but that's what we have to work with right now," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "When you're looking for wins and trying to get things started, you have to do it any way you can. If we can play this type of game again, we'll have a better outlook at the end of games. Play a consistent game and plug away at the process, and we'll be OK."

Sharks -- Last week, it was Ryane Clowe calling out his teammates. Now the coach has joined in. Like the Blues, the Sharks saw bottom-dwelling Edmonton as a way out of a slump. One 5-2 loss later, the slump is deeper and Todd McLellan has seen enough.

"Maybe some guys need to watch a few games," McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News, referring to some players who may find themselves healthy scratches soon.

"I can't imagine what would happen in the real world -- a brain surgeon, an ambulance driver, a police officer, somebody over in Afghanistan -- if they weren't prepared to exercise what they were asked to do in critical situations," he continued. "We didn't have enough guys tonight."

Who's hot -- Ryan Reaves has scored in back-to-back games for the Blues, and they're his first NHL goals. He kept the puck on the first one, but handed over the second to fellow Peoria call-up Philip McRae, whose assist on the goal was his first NHL point. Jaroslav Halak had 24 saves against the Kings and will likely start in San Jose as well. He started both Blues games so far and is 1-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average. … Joe Thornton has 4 points in his last two games.

Injury report --
Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (facial cut) was hit with a puck in the Anaheim game and sat out Thursday. He remains day-to-day. Of the three injured forwards the Blues miss so much, only TJ Oshie (broken ankle) is expected back soon. Andy McDonald and David Perron are out with concussions and no definite timetables for return.

After missing one game due to a knee injury, Sharks rookie Logan Couture may be ready for a Saturday night return. Taking his place among the injured is forward Torrey Mitchell who was placed on IR with a re-aggravated groin injury. Center Joe Pavelski returned to the lineup Thursday after an eight-game absence.

Stat pack -- Thornton has at least one point in each of his last eight games against the Oilers. … The Sharks' last seven-game skid on home ice was an eight-game slide from Feb. 18-March 26, 1995. … Sharks goalie Antti Niemi has a 2.55 goals-against average in his last four starts, all losses. Antero Niittymaki is 0-3-0 with a 4.08 GAA in his last three starts. … The Sharks have scored only eight times in their six-game home slide. … In the Blues' last five-game losing streak, they scored 15 goals. David Backes and Brad Winchester scored eight of them.

Puck drop --
Despite their recent struggles, both teams are still very much in playoff contention. Just as losing streaks dropped them out of the playoff picture at the moment, rattling off a few wins can vault them right back in.

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