Sharks hope to turn tide against undefeated Blues

Kurz: Marleau is off to a quietly good start

Sharks hope to turn tide against undefeated Blues
October 15, 2013, 11:00 am
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The Blues are 6-1-0 agaisnt the Sharks since the start of the 2011-12 season. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Blues coverage gets underway today at 5 p.m. on NBCSN. Can't find a TV? Watch it streaming live with NBC Sports Live Extra

ST. LOUIS -- After taking a day off from practice on Sunday, Sharks wingers Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns are good to go for Tuesday’s much anticipated game between the 5-0-0 San Jose Sharks and the 4-0-0 St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

[RELATED: Sharks preparing for battle of undefeateds]

Hertl left Saturday’s 3-2 win over Ottawa late in the second period after getting hit by Clarke MacArthur, while Burns took a high stick in the face from Senators goalie Robyn Lehner and stayed in the game.

“I feel very good and I am ready tonight,” said Hertl, who leads the league with seven goals.

That’s good news for the Sharks, who have not had much success against the Blues lately. In fact, St. Louis’ 6-1-0 mark since the start of the 2011-12 season is the best record of any NHL team against the Sharks over that span. That doesn’t even include the five-game first round defeat the Sharks suffered at the hands of the Blues in 2012.

Furthermore, the Blues bring a 10-game regular season home winning streak into Tuesday’s game, dating back to last season. All four of the Blues’ wins have come at home, and they haven’t even trailed in St. Louis in 559 minutes and 10 seconds, also dating back to the end of the 2013 campaign.

“Both teams are undefeated right now, and this is a very tough building to play in. We know that, obviously, from the last couple years coming in here,” Logan Couture said. “It’s tough to get a win against these guys, it feels like they’re on top of you all night and you’re going to get finished (on checks) a bunch of times. It’s a good challenge for our team.”

Joe Thornton said: “Both teams try to not give each other too much room, both teams are very deep, and playing well this early stage of the year. It’s a good, fun matchup right now.”

The Sharks and Blues enter the league as No. 1 and 2, respectively, in goals per game. St. Louis also brings the NHL’s top power play, which is 6-for-16 overall (37.5 percent). Like San Jose, St. Louis offers a balanced attack and has 10 players with at least one goal.

“There’s not one area of the game you can target to beat St. Louis,” Todd McLellan said.

While the Blues have had recent success against the Sharks, they haven’t seen them since San Jose started to remake its team at the trade deadline last March. The most recent meeting was a 4-2 Blues home win on March 12, which was Burns’ first game as a forward. A few days later, Joe Pavelski shifted to third line center, and the numerous trades that made the team much faster and better followed later in the month, and into the beginning of April.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock thinks the Sharks have picked up right where they left off from those changes, after they finished the regular season strong and had a good playoff showing.

“I think they’re the same as us, this is just a buildup from the end of last year,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t see anything different. They made a significant change in personnel with 15 or 20 games left, changed their team, changed their style, changed the way they play their players, had real success, and I think they’re just building on that.”

According to Couture, the Sharks didn’t make a concerted effort last March to play like the Blues, but, “they play hard, they play fast, and that’s what we’re trying to do. There’s a bunch of teams who play that same way, but these guys are probably the most physical.”

By the end of the night, one of the two teams will finally have a loss.

“They’re playing well, we’re playing well, and it’s a good test to come here on the road and challenge the unbeaten streak,” Thornton said.

* * *

Antti Niemi will face Jaroslav Halak in goal, as the backups for both teams will have to wait at least another night to get a start.

The Sharks recalled forward Bracken Kearns, perhaps as a precaution in case Hertl or Burns were unable to play.

[RELATED: Sharks place Burish on IR, recall Kearns]

Adam Burish, out with a lower body injury since Sept. 16, was placed on injured reserve. According to McLellan, it was “not real good news the other day at the doctor,” for the fourth line winger.