Programming note: Sharks-Blues coverage begins Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
ST. LOUIS – The Sharks have had their way with the St. Louis Blues in a pair of previous meetings this season, scoring six goals in each of the two victories.
They’ll try and duplicate that success on Tuesday night as they go for a season sweep against one of the powerhouse clubs in the Western Conference, and a team they could very well face again at some point in the postseason.
“The start’s been important both nights,” said Todd McLellan, whose team has had leads of 5-0 and 4-0 in the previous games with St. Louis. “The power play and penalty kill have been important both nights. Goaltending’s been very good, and we’ve played a competitive game. Without that, you really limit your opportunity to win.
“That type of formula doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure gives you a better chance than the opposite.”
The opposite is what the Sharks have had far too often lately, in losing five of their last six. There isn’t one area of their game that’s been particularly glaring, as five-on-five play, erratic special teams, leaky goaltending and an inability to play a full 60 minutes have all been noticeable.
They won’t be able to get away with any of that against the Blues, who lead the NHL with a .750 winning percentage and are 13-2-2 on home ice.
“Our relentless kind of effort and energy we had at the beginning of the year is missing a little bit,” Dan Boyle said. “Determination to get to the net – we’ve got pretty big group of forwards up there. Some of that is just the grind of the season and every team goes through it. You’ve just got to find a way to get that back.”
Joe Thornton said: “It’s a good test for us. We haven’t been playing as good as we’ve liked, so to play a team like this to get us back on track is a good sign, hopefully.”
The Sharks could be facing a shorthanded Blues team, as captain and forward David Backes is questionable with an upper body injury. Backes took a hard hit from Ottawa’s Colin Greening in a loss on Monday night, and was visibly wobbly as he skated to the bench and up the tunnel.
The Blues did not have a morning skate on Tuesday, having landed in the early morning hours from Ottawa, where they lost in overtime, 3-2.
Lately, though, the Sharks have been unable to capitalize on other teams playing in the second half of a back-to-back. This will be the fourth time in the last six games the Sharks are facing a team in such a situation. San Jose has lost the first three to Minnesota, the New York Islanders, and Carolina.
“I went back and looked back at our last little streak of games,” McLellan said. “The Islanders came in after back-to-back and that really didn’t go too well. Carolina played back to back on the road and that didn’t go too well. So, we’re not counting on [having an advantage]. It’s us, not them.”
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Brent Burns said: “Doesn’t matter. Everybody is in good shape.”
Boyle is hopeful that the Sharks’ recent downturn is only temporary.
“I’ve never seen anybody go 82-0, or a team go without any sort of down in their season,” he said. “The game that we play is a hard game, it’s a competitive game and the way the game is being played, it’s pretty taxing on everybody.
“Teams go through lulls, but the better teams get out of it quicker.”