San Jose continues their six game home stand with a tilt against the St. Louis Blues.
The San Jose Sharks will look to keep their recent stretch of quality play rolling as they face a hot St. Louis Blues bunch who are 7-2-0 in their last nine games. The Sharks have won back-to-back contests to begin their home stand, including Sunday night’s 3-0 shutout over Arizona.
Every point matters during this final stretch of the season for San Jose, who trails Anaheim by just one point for second in the Pacific Division. San Jose will go for their first five-game home win streak since they collected eight-straight wins at SAP Center from Nov. 29-Dec. 20, 2014.
In the Gateway City, the Blues (42-22-9) are still in reach of the Stars for the top spot in the Central Division, sitting just two points behind Dallas. This will cap off a five-game road trip for St. Louis, who went 2-2-0 in the first four contests of the trip. The Blues have fared surprisingly well without Alexander Steen, who has missed the last 10 games due to an upper-body injury.
The Sharks took the first two meetings of the season – both in February – the most recent of which came on Feb. 22 when San Jose notched six goals.
Players to Watch
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Sharks: Tomas Hertl. Hertl is riding a five-game point streak, compiling two goals and five assists. The young Czech tallied two goals in the Sharks’ 6-3 victory over the Blues in their last meeting, and has had a fantastic couple of months. After opening the 2015-16 campaign with only 15 points in 37 games, Hertl has managed to score 27 points in his last 34. More importantly, Hertl’s plus-20 rating since the new year and plus-four rating in his last four games has helped propel the Sharks to a nice bounce back season.
Blues: Brian Elliott. If it wasn’t for an injury which caused him to miss almost a month of action, Elliott may have well been a Vezina Trophy finalist. Elliott is 18-7-6 on the season, and his 2.07 GAA and .931 save percentage are tied for second and first in the league, respectively. The net minder returned to action on Saturday against the Canucks after missing 10 games thanks to a lower-body injury sustained against San Jose in late February – and it was an impressive return indeed – Elliott earned the shutout, albeit facing just 19 shots. The Blues will send him out to the crease for another start against a Sharks team he has been dismal against this year, recording a .872 save percentage and allowing six goals in four periods of work.
Keys to the Game
1. Shots on Net
The Sharks need to make Elliott work, as he was allowed to sleepwalk his way to a shutout in his first game back from injury against a Canucks team who managed a lackluster 19 shots. While this is Elliott’s second consecutive start, he still has seen only 60 minutes of ice time in almost a month, so making him move around and work is important.
2. Bodies in Front
San Jose needs to keep Elliott on his toes all game and give him a chance to test out that lower-body injury. Confusing Elliott by redirecting shots, intentional or unintentional, will be crucial in forcing him to use those reactions and quick senses he has barely utilized in game situations recently.
3. Get a Point
The Blues are no slouch. St. Louis is a legitimate Cup contender and tough to score against. Since Jan. 14, the ‘Notes have lost a grand total of two games in regulation to teams that are currently out of the playoffs, both coming in the last week against Calgary and Edmonton. This is a team that almost always competes and is fantastic away from home, with a 21-11-5 road record. If the Sharks lose this game, losing it in overtime or in a shootout is important.
TV: CSN-California (7:30 p.m. PDT)
Radio: 98.5 KFOX