Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

Sharks-Blues: What to watch for
April 14, 2012, 5:36 pm
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ST. LOUIS The Sharks and Blues faced each other four times in the regular season, but the first period of Thursdays Game 1 at Scottrade Center still resembled two clubs feeling each other out a bit.

That will likely change in Game 2. The Blues cant afford to drop both of their home games before it shifts back to a raucous HP Pavilion for games three and four, and there is little doubt that will show early on. San Jose won Game 1 in double-overtime, 3-2.

We know theyll be better, so we have to be better as well, Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. Well have to match their intensity.

Todd McLellan would like to see his team match and overtake the Blues initial charge and energy.

I expect San Jose to come full bore. Thats what I expect from our group, McLellan said. I will say this they will have a push and they will come out hard. Theyre proud, theyre well coached, theyre a good hockey team. We have to expect that from them.

But, I want us to push. I want us to be the team that plays the first five or seven minutes in the other teams zone. Win faceoffs, and go to work. Thats what Id like to see from our group.

Blues changes: St. Louis will make three changes to its lineup from Game 1. In are forwards Matt DAgostini and B.J. Crombeen, and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves and Kent Huskins will sit.

San Jose doesnt expect the Blues game to change all that much even with the changes.

Vlasic said: Whoever replaces them is going to do the same thing. Theyre changing things up, theyll play the same way.

San Joses lineup isnt expected to change from Thursdays Game 1. Antti Niemi will face Jaroslav Halak in net.
Matching lines: The Sharks got a key goal from their third line on Thursday, when Andrew Desjardins marker tied it late in the third period. The top lines for each club essentially cancelled each other out, as Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau went scoreless while skating primarily against the David Perron, T.J. Oshie and David Backes trio which was also without a point.

McLellan didnt seem to mind that three of his top scorers didnt generate much offensively. They were, after all, effective on the other side of the puck.

When we went through our scoring chances for and against each line. Jumbos line didnt give up much, which was good, McLellan said. To play against that Backes-Perron-Oshie line is a job well done, also. Theyre very dynamic, quick, and do a lot of good things.

Perron, perhaps the Blues most dangerous threat, knows his line has to generate additional offense, too.

I thought we played a pretty good game last game but it was not enough, Perron said. We just need more, its as simple as that.

If the games come down to the bottom two lines needing to get on the board, it could be a huge advantage for San Jose, which has found a pair of effective combinations.

They have a speed element to them, and a bit of a grit element to them, as well, McLellan said of Desjardins, Tommy Wingels, Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi, Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell.

This is the most comfortable weve been this season with lines three and four.

Searching for shots: The Sharks finished the regular season with the second-most shots on goal per game (33.8), but are averaging just 27.6 per game in the five against St. Louis (including Game 1, which went into double-overtime).

St. Louis, of course, was the NHLs best defensive team all season long, finishing with a goals-against average under two (1.89).

San Jose would like to get a little more rubber to the net.

Theyre a tight defensive team. During the season we havent had many shots against them, and same thing in the playoffs, Vlasic said. Were going to have to get more pucks at them, and get more traffic.

Logan Couture said: Theyre got five in and around the net in their own zone at all times, and its tough to find holes. Weve got to find a way to get more pucks to the net.

Of course, in order to get more shots, the Sharks will have to spend more time in St. Louis zone. In Game 1 San Jose was hemmed in far too often, especially in the first overtime, although it played good team defense in minimizing the scoring chances against.

They forecheck hard, so theyll be in our zone quite often. We just want to keep everything to the outside, Vlasic said. I thought they were in our zone a lot more than we would have wanted to.

Wed enjoy it if it was spent more in their zone, Couture said. We spent a lot of time in our end last game, and thats obviously something wed like to change. Nemo was great for us. Were going to have to spend more time in their end tonight.

Odds and ends: Hitchcock on the Sharks: Since the series against Dallas, theyre dialed in. Theyll be a hard opponent for everybody, so we have to make sure were ready for this kind of competition. The Blues havent won a playoff game since April 12, 2004 against San Jose. Marty Havlat has 29 points in his last 29 playoff games. San Jose is 11-16 all-time in Game 2, including a 6-7 record after winning Game 1. The Sharks have won the first two road games of a playoff series just once: 1995 vs. Calgary in the first round.