SAN JOSE, CA – The St. Louis Blues (36-25-6) look to sweep their road trip of the Golden State with a 2 pm Saturday afternoon game against the San Jose Sharks (40-19-8) at the SAP Center. The Blues save their toughest Californian opponent for last after a dramatic 5-4 win in Anaheim on Wednesday and a 4-0 win in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The Blues and Sharks traded 4-0 shutout wins in their buildings earlier this season, both games just eight days apart, with the series finale this Saturday afternoon. The Sharks have been a consistently resolute squad, sitting one point behind first in the Pacific Division after a 5-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens.
Central Division Playoff Race
The Blues, despite a rocky start to their season, can move to within two points of the second place Winnipeg Jets and three of the first place Nashville Predators in the Central Division with this Western Conference matchup.
San Jose has been an offensive machine this season, with five players already clocking in 50+ points and sitting second in the league in goals for. However, their defense will be shorthanded with defenseman Erik Karlsson expected to be out with a groin injury until the end of the regular season.
Karlsson, who has not played since Feb. 26, was acquired by the Sharks at the beginning of this season from the Ottawa Senators and has bolstered even more superstar power to the Shark’s roster. The offensive prowess of Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, and Tomas Hertl, however, will give plenty of reason for the Blues’ to play at their highest level. The Sharks also have Martin Jones, arguably one of the best goaltenders in the league this season with 32 wins, good for second-highest in the league.
Blues Playing Well of Late
The Blues have found their stride here in February and March after a history-setting 11-win run and 6-3-1 in their last ten propelled them from dead-last in the NHL to a solid playoff position. Chemistry and offense from the top line of Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Brayden Schenn has helped give the team the confidence to play against any team in the league and stay energized.
With the absence of David Perron, the Blues have turned to rookies like Robert Thomas and Makenzie MacEachern to solidify the bottom line’s zone pressure. Along with the top line, the blue line has created incredible offensive output as well; St. Louis is second in the league for goals scored by defensemen, one behind Minnesota. Captain Alex Pietrangelo has been leading the charge in the category with 12 goals and 32 points through 56 games.
The X-factor in all this for the Blues late in this season has been the goaltending of Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington, who collectively are 21-7-2 since January 1st. Binnington made waves across the NHL as a rookie this season, posting a 16-3-1 and a 1.80 GAA in his first 22 games.
The puck is set to drop at SAP Center on 3/9 at 4 pm ET. Ways to watch and listen to that puck drop are provided by:
STL: FSMW, 1120 KMOX, NHL.tv
SJS: NSCA, 1140 KHTK, NHL.tv
10 Schenn – 90 O’Reilly – 91 Tarasenko
20 Steen – 70 Sundqvist – 17 Schwartz
7 Maroon – 21 Bozak – 18 Thomas
62 MacEachern – 49 Barbashev – 9 Blais
27 Pietrangelo – 6 Edmundson
55 Parayko – 19 Bouwmeester
29 Dunn – 41 Bortuzzo
8 Pavelski – 39 Couture – 28 Meier
14 Nyquist – 48 Hertl – 27 Donskoi
20 Sorenson – 19 Thornton – 62 Labanc
18 Haley – 23 Goodrow – 68 M. Karlsson
88 Burns – 51 Simek
61 Braun – 4 Dillon
72 Heed – 44 Vlasic
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