SAN JOSE -– The St. Louis Blues weren’t much of a challenge for the Sharks last season, judging by the scoreboard.
In three meetings in 2013-14, all in the first half of the season, San Jose outscored St. Louis 16-7 in three regulation wins. The Sharks jumped out to leads of 5-0, 4-0 and 3-0 in the three matchups.
The clubs will renew acquaintances on Saturday at SAP Center, and will see one another twice more over the next three weeks. Can anything be taken from those three wins last season, the most recent of which was more than a calendar year ago?
“Nah, new season, new team, different players, all that kind of stuff,” Logan Couture said. “They have the same coaching staff and we expect them to play the same style. We play a similar style to the way we played last year. In that aspect, it will be similar, but players are a little different. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Todd McLellan mentioned that the Sharks hadn’t had much success against the Blues before last season, including a five-game playoff defeat in the first round in 2012.
“We’ve got to start all over, a three-game series against a very good team, St. Louis, over the next three weeks,” McLellan said. “It’s going to be a very good test for our team.”
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Both clubs feature dominant power plays. The Blues enter with the NHL’s third-ranked unit (25.4 percent) while the Sharks are fourth at 24.2 percent.
Each has been strong lately, too. St. Louis has scored 10 power play goals in its last 22 chances over the last six games (45.4 percent), while San Jose is 7-for-24 in its last nine games (29.1 percent).
Avoiding unnecessary or dumb penalties will be vital.
Couture said: “Our coaches always say it’s a form of toughness – if they’re going to take penalties, make them pay with our power play. That’s something that we want to do tonight.”
McLellan would like to see his club walk that fine line of playing a heavy, feisty game while not leaving the team shorthanded.
“We don’t want to be backed off, but we don’t want to be sitting there killing penalties time and time again,” said the coach.
The Sharks will likely make one lineup change, as Tye McGinn will get back in for rookie Chris Tierney. That will put Andrew Desjardins back as the center between McGinn and John Scott.
That group will likely see the Blues’ fourth line, featuring center Maxim Lapierre – who ran Dan Boyle from behind last October, giving the defenseman a severe concussion – and rugged winger Ryan Reaves. Steve Ott, who has been a pest against the Sharks since his days in Dallas, is also expected to play for St. Louis.
“They play a hard game, and I think we play a hard game too,” Desjardins said. “It's going to be a hard-checking game. It always is against them. That's what we can expect."
Brent Burns said: "These are one of the perennial great teams. It’s another game, but it’s going to be a good one.”