SAN JOSE – The biggest game in San Jose Sharks franchise history didn’t bring with it any different feeling than the other 99 they’re played so far this season on Wednesday morning.
One of the strengths of this Sharks team, according to Joe Thornton, has been its ability to “stay in the moment.”
“I think I’ve said this numerous times, this team has done a good job taking things day-by-day, shift-by-shift,” Thornton said. “We have to continue that tonight.”
Still, there’s no denying that Game 6 of the Western Conference Final is the most important game for just about everyone in the Sharks’ dressing room. Only Martin Jones and Dainius Zubrus have ever played in a Stanley Cup Final, and only Jones has won a championship – at that was as the backup to Jonathan Quick in 2014.
Like most other players that reach the NHL, though, Joe Pavelski indicated there are big moments throughout every player’s journey. Those are in the back of his mind ahead of Game 6.
“You look at your whole career…when I was in high school in the state championship, that was my biggest game of my life at the time,” Pavelski said. “In college, in junior – there’s games where the moments are so big. It’s your Stanley Cup. You work all those days to get in the position to hopefully play for it.
“Tonight those games are in the past. You draw from those experiences. As a kid, you grow up trying to be able to play for the Stanley Cup, and [to] have a game tonight – this is the most important one right now.”
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For the second time in the series, the Blues are changing goaltenders, as Brian Elliott will return to the crease for the first time since he was pulled in Game 3. Jake Allen won Game 4, but lost Game 5.
Elliott is 2-0 in elimination games this postseason, winning a pair of Game 7s while stopping 62 of 65 shots.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in net for them, we still want to shoot the puck,” said Logan Couture, who saw the news on Twitter on Tuesday. “Usually there’s rebounds sitting around, so get the second or third one.”
Jones, of course, remains in net for San Jose. Other than his strong third period in Game 5, though, he’s been shaky of late, allowing seven goals on his last 40 shots faced. He was pulled for James Reimer in the second period of Game 4.
Pete DeBoer didn’t express too much concern over Jones, who is 11-6 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in the postseason.
“This guy's composure – that's the word that keeps coming up with me,” DeBoer said. “You wouldn't know after a game or the next day whether he got shelled and pulled, or whether he won 3‑0 against L.A., his old team.
“He's just got that personality. I think it leads to what you see on the ice. That's a really calming effect on our team.”
The Blues are reportedly making one other change to their lineup, as Scottie Upshall will draw in for Magnus Paajarvi.
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Emotions got the best of a few players in Game 5, and it ended up affecting the final score. Kevin Shattenkirk’s retaliatory penalty on Tommy Wingels led to Joel Ward’s power play goal, while Roman Polak’s jumping of Dmitrij Jaskin allowed Robby Fabbri to give the Blues a 3-2 lead.
DeBoer, though, wasn’t overly upset that Polak’s outburst that could have cost San Jose the pivotal game.
“When you have a guy like Roman Polak, whose job is to punish the team on the ice, you're going to deal with some of that. You know that going in,” DeBoer said. “I don't see that as selfish or an issue. I see that as a guy that plays on the edge, that steps over the edge. As a coach, you’ve got to live with a little bit of that.”
The Sharks and Blues have both utilized strong power plays to make it to this point. At home, San Jose is 9-for-27 with a man advantage (33.3 percent), while the Blues are 9-for-23 on the road (39.1 percent).