The Sharks and Blues face off tonight for the first time since May 26 when San Jose finished off St. Louis in game six of the Western Conference Finals. The Blues, now without Brian Elliott, look every bit as dangerous as they did a season ago as they boast the second best fenwick-for percentage of any team in the NHL (corsica.hockey — score and venue adjusted).
Add on to that a penalty kill that’s producing at the second-highest rate in the NHL and a very good power play (22 percent right now) and the Sharks will have their hands full. San Jose laid an egg against the Carolina Hurricanes, failing to score while Aaron Dell stood on his head to make the loss look respectable.
Martin Jones will be back in net for the Sharks tonight, while Melker Karlsson’s status has yet to be updated. He missed Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury but is listed as day to day — so that could still go either way. Keep an eye on the Sharks lines whether Karlsson is back or not; head coach Peter DeBoer threw them in a blender during the Carolina game and we might see a new look on Thursday.
I wrote about the Sharks’ excellent defense yesterday, but I also wrote about San Jose’s Joel Ward conundrum. He has not looked good with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, while the third line has excelled since Tomas Hertl took over as center. I wrote about my preferred lines in the Ward post, but nothing would surprise me at this point.
As for the Blues, look out for Vladimir Tarasenko. Yes, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun did an amazing job holding him down in the Conference Finals, but the Russian has absolutely torn the NHL apart this season. If the top line hasn’t figured itself out by tomorrow night, that could be trouble.
Jake Allen will almost certainly get the start in net for St. Louis. The Blues enter the game having beaten Buffalo in their last contest.
San Jose heads to Arizona on Saturday to finish off its six-game road trip. Four games through, the Sharks have six points and a 3-1-0 record. They haven’t lost in overtime this season.