San Jose hosts St. Louis in the second of two meetings on Fear the Fin Night at Sap Center on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PT. The Sharks lead the Blues 1-0 in the season series after beating St. Louis 3-2 on the road. The Blues are hanging on to third place in the Central Division and come into Saturday’s game after losing badly to the Kings on Thursday.
The game is a rematch of the Western Conference Finals that sent the Sharks to their first ever Stanley Cup Final, which now seems like a long time ago. St. Louis remains a formidable opponent while San Jose is still looking to get its blue line in order as Dylan DeMelo is just the latest defender to go down with injury.
Mirco Mueller was sent to the Barracuda on Friday afternoon but will likely be recalled on Saturday after playing with the AHL affiliate on Friday night. It’s unclear who will suit up for the Sharks on Saturday on defense as Tim Heed made his NHL debut against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday and played well while Mueller was technically a healthy scratch; but more on that later.
St. Louis, celebrating its 50th season, has lost three of its last five and sits just above 50 percent in both 5v5 corsi (51.01) and fenwick (50.88). To compound that, the Blues haven’t received great goaltending (.908). All that stacks up well for the Sharks, who just might ice something resembling a healthy lineup on Saturday.
Paul Martin was a late scratch on Wednesday but figures to be back in the lineup against St. Louis. So that leaves David Schlemko and DeMelo as the major absences on the San Jose blue line. Schlemko could get back into the lineup as there were rumblings he might travel to Alberta with the Sharks, but for now we’ll assume he’s a no go.
If that’s the case, the Sharks at least have their top four worked out and will just need to figure out which of Mirco Mueller or Tim Heed play with Brenden Dillon. Heed, who shoots left, seems to be the most likely to get into the lineup if the top four remains intact because it keeps the Sharks from playing Mueller on his off-side. This changes if another injury bug gets its dirty teeth into a San Jose defender, of course.
On the goaltending front, you can figure Martin Jones will be back between the pipes after Aaron Dell started against Calgary on Wednesday. He hasn’t much enjoyed his play in the past 10 games thanks in part to poor San Jose defense. Jones’ even strength save percentage is down to .908 over the past 10 games and .909 overall as the below graphic from corsica.hockey illustrates.
Jones hasn’t been at his best, but he hasn’t had much help either. Either way, the Sharks will be better off when they get their defense healthy again. With any luck, that will be tonight.