Sharks-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 09, 2011
The St. Louis Blues' resurgence began with the hiring of coach Ken Hitchcock a little more than a month ago. The San Jose Sharks hope a less drastic approach has gotten them back on track. San Jose looks to continue its recent success in St. Louis when the teams meet Saturday night. Since Hitchcock took over for the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6, the Blues (16-9-3) have earned a point in 13 of 15 games (10-2-3). T.J. Oshie scored twice in Thursday's 4-2 victory over Anaheim, helping St. Louis improve to 7-2-1 at home under Hitchcock. The Blues had suffered back-to-back losses to Colorado and Chicago before winning their last two games. "The boys are rolling. We're back on track," Oshie said. To keep things going, the Blues will have to withstand San Jose, which has won seven of 10 on the road this season and is 10-2-1 in its last 13 visits to St. Louis. The Sharks have allowed just 16 goals in their last 11 games there. Coach Todd McLellan shuffled his team's lines Thursday after San Jose (15-9-1) lost four of its previous five games, helping lead to a 5-2 win over Dallas. McLellan moved Brad Winchester up to the first group centered by Joe Thornton, who had two assists, while Jamie McGinn started on the third line and Torrey Mitchell on the fourth. Each player ended up with a goal. "Sometimes when you move the lines around everybody gets a bit of a wake-up call and people get mad," McLellan said. "Those people who got mad had good nights." The second line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Martin Havlat remained the same. Clowe had a goal and an assist, while Couture scored and Havlat added an assist. It's unclear whether McLellan will stick with the same lines for Friday's contest, but he'll be looking for improvement from the only meeting with the Blues this season. St. Louis rallied for a 4-2 win in San Jose on Oct. 15, with Alex Steen getting the go-ahead goal as the Blues scored three times in the third period. Brian Elliott made 34 saves in that matchup to win his first start of the season for a then-struggling Jaroslav Halak, and he's 11-2-0 with a league-leading 1.56 goals-against average. Halak went 1-6-0 with a 3.35 GAA before Hitchcock's arrival but has gone 4-1-3 with a 1.58 GAA since the coaching change, including a 21-save victory Thursday. It is unclear who will start this contest, though Halak is 0-2-0 with a 5.23 GAA in his last three starts versus San Jose. Antti Niemi appears likely to get the nod for the Sharks, having allowed more than two goals just twice in his last 10 starts. Backup Thomas Greiss took the loss in the most recent meeting, and Niemi is 4-2-0 with a 2.86 GAA in six career starts versus the Blues. Joe Pavelski tops the Sharks with 12 goals despite having one in his last seven games - he only has two points in that span - but he has two goals and five assists in his last four matchups with St. Louis. David Backes has a team-high 10 goals for the Blues and has scored three in his last four games versus San Jose.
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