Sharks vs. Blues: Clash of the (early regular season) titans

Dilip Vishwanat

Two of the three remaining undefeated teams in the league face off this evening in St. Louis.

The last time the San Jose Sharks faced the Blues in St. Louis, the course of their season (and, presumably, the seasons to come) significantly changed as Brent Burns played his first game as a forward. Now, seven months later, Burns has 26 points in 28 regular season games up front and leads an undefeated Sharks team into Missouri to take on the undefeated Blues. Two perfect teams enter, only one shall remain. It's the early regular season hockey equivalent of a cage match.

Like the Sharks, the Blues boast a deep forward corps highlighted by their strength down the middle; when Joe Pavelski or Patrik Berglund is your third-line center, you're going to win a lot of games. St. Louis has just as much depth on the back end with a formidable top four that includes Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester as well as an effective shutdown pair of Barret Jackman and Roman Polak. Unsurprisingly, given their track records, both clubs have excelled at the possession game thus far this season with the Sharks 1st in the league in score-close shot differential while the Blues also rank in the top ten. They're also 2nd and 4th in the league, respectively, in shots per minute on the power play. San Jose hasn't had as much fortune in converting those shots as St. Louis so far but expect that to turn around in short order.

It's the Sharks' first major test of the season and kicks off a stretch of seven out of eight games on the road, after which we should have a much clearer picture of where this team really stands. It feels cheap to describe a game in mid-October as having a "playoff atmosphere," so I won't, but this is most certainly going to be a fun one.

San Jose Sharks

@

St. Louis Blues
5-0-0, 10 points
4-0-0, 8 points
1st in Pacific
2nd in Central

5PM PST | Scottrade Center | St. Louis, Missouri
TV: NBCSN, TSN2 | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: St. Louis Game Time

Projected Sharks Lineup

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Matthew Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Bracken Kearns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Projected Blues Lineup

Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Brenden Morrow - Derek Roy - Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Sobotka - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold - Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

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