ST. LOUIS – Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is getting his way, if you believe what he proclaimed after Tuesday’s morning skate at Scottrade Center.
When asked how his team’s approach might change should the Sharks place Patrick Marleau in the middle of the third line, where he spent most of the second half of the season, Hitchcock said: “We don't like that match. He should stay on the second line (laughter). We don't like that one.
“I'm not telling Pete [DeBoer] how to coach. Nor am I telling him how to referee. Just telling him we don't like that match.”
Whether that’s pure gamesmanship or Hitchcock is being truthful, the Sharks will apparently keep Marleau alongside Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi on the second line for Game 2, as they try to even the Western Conference Final at one game apiece.
“[Marleau is] a world class player,” DeBoer said. “He’s in our lineup. Right now he’s on wing, and we think that’s the best place for him to help us right now.”
DeBoer has said in the past that Chris Tierney’s development has allowed him to remove Marleau from that third line center role on occasion. Tierney will likely remain between Melker Karlsson and Joel Ward for Game 2.
In Game 1 that line struggled, according to some advanced possession stats. They were often matched up against the Blues’ top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera.
“They’ve got a lot of speed. They’re really good off the rush,” Tierney said of that line. “You’ve got to make sure we’re not turning it over up there, and make sure we’re getting back hard and not letting them jump in front of us. Win our battles on the wall, and make sure we’re careful with the puck and not turn it over, because that’s when they really hurt you.”
Lehtera scored in Game 1 after a Brent Burns neutral zone turnover, when the St. Louis center stepped in front of Burns’ attempted pass to Tierney. It was the difference in St. Louis’ 2-1 win.
Ward said: “You’ve just got to know when those guys are out there, [and] be on the defensive side of them. … As it went on I thought we were pretty good. Now it’s turning that into some really quality scoring opportunities.”
DeBoer evaluated Tierney’s first career taste of playoff hockey, as the 21-year-old has four points (3g, 1a) in 13 games.
“I think he’s been great,” DeBoer said. “Thrown a lot of responsibility at him, thrown a lot of challenges at him. You look at the teams he’s played and some of the matchups he’s had to deal with, and he’s risen to all the occasions we’ve presented him.”
Tierney said: “It’s an extra gear every series, it seems like. Every game everybody is bringing it, so you can’t really take a night off or it’s going to hurt you.”
* * *
Defenseman Paul Martin reiterated on Tuesday morning that the Sharks don’t believe they need to change a whole lot headed into Game 2, but they do have to manage the puck better. San Jose will attempt to avoid falling into a 0-2 series hole for the fourth time in its history when competing in the Western Conference Final.
“We didn’t manage the puck as well as we’d like,” Martin said. “Be a little cleaner coming out of our own end with some breakouts, handling some of the pressure. But we didn’t play our best game. I think we showed signs of it in the second and into the third, once we got into the game. It took us too long to feel it out. When you turn the puck over, it’s hard to get into that flow of the game when you’re on your heels.
“We didn’t win some of the battles we needed to win, [or] take care of the puck when we needed to. They capitalized on a turnover that we don’t need to do. We definitely had our opportunities. So, I think if we capitalize on a couple of those, it’s a different game.”
* * *
Tarasenko missed the Blues’ morning skate, reportedly for the birth of his first child, a son, Aleksandr.
Hitchcock expects the dangerous forward and team's leading goal scorer in the regular season to play in Game 2.
“He's pretty excited. Hockey's not a priority," Hitchcock said. "But you know what, if something happened [and] he wasn't able to come here, the priority is to be with his family. We all understand that. We'll support him 100 percent on it. But our assumption is that he'll be here ready for game.”