ST. LOUIS – Just in case there was any doubt, Martin Jones will return to the Sharks’ net for Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday night.
Jones doesn’t speak on game days, but his counterpart, James Reimer, expressed confidence that the 26-year-old would bounce back after he was pulled from the net for the first time in the playoffs in Game 4. Jones allowed four goals on 19 shots before getting the hook in the second period.
“Last game I think we would all say in here it wasn’t our best game. They got a lot of real good opportunities,” Reimer said. “I think for a goalie in that instance – he made a couple 10-bell [saves]. They still found a way to get a couple pucks in. I think for him, you let four in in half a game, but in my mind he still made some big saves and played pretty good. It should be no problem to bounce back.”
The well-liked Reimer is around for Jones, too, should he need a shoulder to lean on, but Reimer indicated that hasn’t been necessary.
“Obviously if there was a time to say something you’d say it, but for him, he’s got good support here,” Reimer said. “You look at all the guys around the room, and he’s got a real good demeanor about him, too. You’ve just got to stay positive, let him know that you’re supporting him, and let him do his thing.”
Reimer hadn’t played since April 5, as Jones had been in the crease for every minute of every game through the first 15. Although the circumstances weren’t great in that he was replacing Jones with the Sharks down 4-0 at the time, it was beneficial for him to get some work in case San Jose needs him at some point down the line.
“You hope that for the team’s sake and your partner’s sake that you don’t get to get in there, but it was good to feel the puck and reset and get back to the speed of the game,” Reimer said. “Big difference between that and practice.”
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Jones, of course, is hardly the only Sharks player that was off his game on Saturday. The group will be looking for a rebound performance in attempting to take a 3-2 series lead back to San Jose for Game 6 on Wednesday.
According to coach Pete DeBoer, it’s easier to put a game like Saturday’s in the rear view mirror, than, say a triple overtime loss, such as the one San Jose experienced in Game 4 against Nashville.
“I think you walk out of that rink, you're probably better losing like we did than losing a close game, a 2-1 game,” DeBoer said. “There was no doubt you weren't good enough. It was very clear on the scoreboard and on the ice.”
There’s been much made over the years of the Sharks’ leadership structure, and that was particularly in focus after the 2014 playoff debacle. So far, though, it seems to be working, as the Sharks have played some of their best games late in series against Los Angeles and Nashville. In Game 7 against the Preds in the second round, everyone was on board in a 5-0 win.
As the stakes have gotten raised, so, too, has the Sharks’ overall team game. They’ll need it on Monday against a Blues team that should be supremely confident.
“I don’t think to a man anyone can sit in this room and think they played [well] in Game 4,” Logan Couture said. “So it’s opportunity for us individually and as a team to go out and redeem ourselves and play the way we expect ourselves to.’’
Marc-Edouard Vlasic pointed out that prior to Game 4, it was the Blues who couldn’t get anything going, having been shut out in games two and three. The tables have turned ahead of Monday’s meeting.
“It’s a funny thing about a seven-game series. So many story lines,” Vlaisc said. “Going into Game 4, [it was] can the Blues do anything? Now, 60 minutes later, [it’s] can the Sharks do anything right? But it’s 2-2 in the series. It’s incredible.
“You have ups-and-downs within a series like you do in the season. You can see that here. But both teams will be desperate tonight, wanting that third one.’’
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St. Louis is still trying to get leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko on the scoresheet this series, as he’s now gone four in a row without a point. Earlier in the series, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said that the 24-year-old was still figuring out how to deal with the rigors of playoff hockey.
“He’s learning hard lessons, like any young player,” Hitchcock said after Game 3.
Tarasenko, who has 11 shots and minus-two rating through four games, spoke for the first time in the series on Monday morning.
“Sometimes you score, sometimes you don’t. You can’t score every game,” he said. “So, at the same time, you need to help your team. You can be a factor. That’s what I try to do.”
“It’s that time of year when you trade your goals [to] win a Cup. It’s not the time to think about your goals.”
As for the rest of St. Louis’ lineup, Hitchcock wouldn’t say whether David Backes or Robby Fabbri would be in for Game 5. Both players were limited in Game 4, but will take warmups.
DeBoer said: “Who they roll out there or what they're doing makes no difference to our preparation.”