Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

733302.jpg

Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

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.

Sharks win 'ugly' vs Avs as they fight through brutal schedule

Sharks win 'ugly' vs Avs as they fight through brutal schedule

SAN JOSE – Playing their fifth game in eight days thanks to the condensed (some would say foolish) NHL schedule this season, perhaps it’s not all that surprising that the Sharks looked like they hit a wall on Saturday night at home against Colorado.

Still, this was the Avalanche, who have been far and away the NHL’s worst team for the past six weeks. Even a subpar effort should be enough.

And, it was. The Sharks got a power play goal by Joel Ward and another from their fourth line, while David Schlemko pounced on a rebound in overtime to push the Sharks to a 3-2 win.

It was an uninspiring victory, but a victory nonetheless.

“Two points is what was the important thing,” Ward said. “It wasn't our best, but we found a way."

Joe Pavelski said: “We had some moments where we were good. Some that we could have been better. It’s a game right now that you’ve got to really stick to your foundation, because there’s a lot of games in a lot of nights here.”

Coach Pete DeBoer, who has skillfully managed his veteran team’s rest since taking over at the start of last season, wasn’t all that critical of the Sharks’ effort, either, even though they made life far too easy on rookie goalie Spencer Martin making his NHL debut.

To DeBoer, the Sharks may be in the midst of their toughest stretch of games on the calendar. By the time they host the Oilers on Thursday in the final game before the All-Star break, San Jose will have played seven games in just an 11-day span.

“I feel the fatigue, and I haven't played a game. I'm just coaching,” he said. “We found a way to win. It was ugly, but we found a way."

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect from the Sharks’ perspective is that their fourth line continues to make an impact, scoring a goal for the third straight game. Ryan Carpenter got on the scoresheet for the second straight, floating a puck towards the net that was redirected by Melker Karlsson. It gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead with five minutes to go in the second period.

“I think we fit pretty good together,” Karlsson said of playing with Carpenter. “Good centerman, good guy. It’s fun.”

Pavelski said: “You can see [the fourth line is] playing with confidence. They’re playing hard. They’re in on a lot of pucks, and giving us energy that way, and they’re getting rewarded.”

The game-winner was a simple one from Schlemko’s perspective. He hopped over the boards, slithered towards the crease, and stickhandled in a Logan Couture rebound for his second goal of the season.

“The rebound came right to me and I just had to tap in,” Schlemko said. “I’ll take those any day.”

While the Sharks were fighting through some physical and mental sluggishness, Colorado looked better than a team that hasn’t won a regulation game in a month and a half. Playing in front of a goalie making his first NHL start likely had something to do with that, as they tried to give Martin an honest effort.

Nathan MacKinnon was particularly effective, generating a game-high seven shots and setting up Colorado’s first score. Just before that goal that was finished off by Mikhail Grigorenko, MacKinnon breezed through the neutral zone untouched, and Pavelski mentioned that area of the game as a troublesome one for his club.

“Whether they were good in the neutral zone or we weren’t as sharp – that wasn’t a very strong point of our game, I don’t think. Turned over a few too many pucks,” he said.

The Sharks will have a better idea of what to expect headed into Monday’s rematch in Denver. Whether they have their legs back by then is uncertain.

“It was hard from an energy point of view for us today,” DeBoer said.

Instant Replay: Schlemko's OT goal lifts Sharks past Avs

Instant Replay: Schlemko's OT goal lifts Sharks past Avs

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – David Schlemko’s overtime goal gave the Sharks a 3-2 win over Colorado on Saturday at SAP Center.

Trailing 2-1 after two, the Avalanche tied it midway through the third period. Some sloppy play by the Sharks’ top line led to Francois Beauchemin powering in a slap shot through Martin Jones at 10:24.

San Jose got the extra point in the standings, though, when Schlemko found a Logan Couture rebound at 1:18 of overtime. It was his second of the season.

The Sharks’ won their fourth straight, and sixth out of their last eight (6-2-0). Colorado lost its fifth in a row, and is just 2-15-0 in its last 17. The Avalanche have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

The teams conclude their home-and-home in Denver on Monday. The Avalanche are the only Central Division team that the Sharks play just twice this season.

The Sharks opened the scoring on the power play in the first period. Vlasic swung the puck down low to Joe Thornton, who found Joel Ward in front at 5:36.

Colorado tied it in the second, courtesy of Mikhail Grigorenko. After Nathan MacKinnon sped through the neutral zone past Brent Burns, he cut to the net and pushed it towards the goal crease, where deflected to Grigorenko’s stick for an easy tap in at 10:30.

Another goal by the fourth line put the Sharks back on top. Ryan Carpenter, playing in his third straight game since getting recalled earlier in the week, had time and space in the faceoff circle to direct a shot towards the net. Linemate Melker Karlsson got his stick blade on it, redirecting it through Spencer Martin at 15:01.

It marked the third straight game that a Sharks fourth liner has scored, including Carpenter’s goal against Tampa Bay on Thursday and Tommy Wingels’ score in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

San Jose improved to 19-3-0 in its last 22 home games against Colorado, and 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings overall.

Colorado fell to 5-1 in overtime. The Sharks are 5-2.

Special teams:
San Jose scored a power play goal for the third time in the last four games, finishing 1-for-3. It was Ward’s first goal with a man advantage this season.

The Sharks were not shorthanded for the duration of a game for the first time this season.

In goal:
Jones had struggled in the first game back after taking the previous one off, going just 1-5-0 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. He made 31 saves

Martin was making his NHL debut, and allowed three goals on 30 shots. The former third round pick in 2013 was recalled due to starter Semyon Varlamov’s groin injury. In 27 games for AHL San Antonio, he is 15-9-2 with a 2.62 GAA and .915 SP.

Lineup:
Matt Nieto was playing his first game as a visitor. He was claimed by the Avalanche on Jan. 5 after getting waived by San Jose, and finished with two shots on goal.

Timo Meier missed his second straight game, and is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Up next:
The Sharks have just three games left before the All-Star break next weekend. After Monday’s game in Colorado, their only visit to Pepsi Center this season, they visit the Jets on Tuesday and host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.