NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, February 4th
(All times eastern)
San Jose Sharks (36-11-9) at St. Louis Blues (25-22-9), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - One night after defeating the second-place team in the
Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues will try to knock off the top dog when
the San Jose Sharks skate into the Scottrade Center this evening.
The Blues tuned up for this key matchup with an encouraging 3-2 road win over
Central Division leader Chicago, which trails only the Sharks for the most
points in the West. David Backes scored two of St. Louis' three goals during a
second-period barrage, while goaltender Chris Mason made the lead stand by
stopping 32 shots.
"With the amount of firepower they have, it was important to make key saves
and I was fortunate enough to do that," said Mason. "We were lucky to get a
couple goals there late in the second period. It was good that we were also
able to survive that third period when they came out flying at us."
Mason made 14 of his saves in the final 20 minutes, with the Blues coming out
on top despite being outshot by a 34-19 margin.
St. Louis will now attempt to post back-to-back victories for the first time
since putting together four straight wins from January 9-16. That figures to
be a tough challenge, considering the Sharks' 81 points are just one back of
Washington for the most in the NHL at the moment.
San Jose has won six consecutive road games as well and brings an excellent
17-6-2 record as the visitor into this evening's clash. The Sharks also had
notched at least one point in 10 straight contests (8-0-2) before being handed
a 4-2 home loss by Detroit on Tuesday.
The Sharks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on a pair of first-period goals by
Joe Thornton, both of which were set up by linemate Dany Heatley. Detroit
would score twice as well before the end of the opening session, though, and
found the net two more times in the third period to move ahead.
"We let them back in the game early," Thornton told the Sharks' official site.
"We probably should have stepped on them a little."
Evgeni Nabokov made 33 saves for San Jose, which played without two valued
defensemen in Dan Boyle (upper body) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body).
Both players are considered questionable to return tonight.
Boyle, who's now sat out the Sharks' last five tests, has produced 11 points
(2 goals, 9 assists) over his last eight outings.
San Jose begins a six-game road trip this evening and takes aim at its third
win over the Blues this season. The Sharks are 2-0-1 over the three previous
meetings between the clubs in 2009-10, which includes a 3-1 decision at the
Scottrade Center on November 14.
The Sharks have left with a win in eight of their last 10 stops in St. Louis.
02/04 10:53:20 ET