Programming note: Sharks-Blues coverage starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California.
WHERE THEY STAND
Sharks: 42-20-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Blues: 36-28-5, 77 points, 4th Central Division (WC2)
PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES
***After losing the first two games of the season series, the Sharks will get one more crack at the Blues on Thursday at SAP Center. The Blues beat the Sharks on Nov. 17 at St. Louis, 3-2, and blanked them at SAP Center on Jan. 14, 4-0.
San Jose is 3-1 on its six-game homestand, and 7-2-0 in its last nine overall. Aaron Dell will make his fourth start in the last eight games, in what will be the first-year goalie's biggest challenge so far. The Blues are desperate for points, as they try and hold on to the second wild card spot.
"It's good to play against one of the higher teams, one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot," said Dell, who has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of his 13 starts. "I think that shows some confidence in me from the coaching staff."
Pete DeBoer expects Carter Hutton to go for the Blues, who will be playing in their second of a back-to-back. Hutton made 23 saves in blanking the Sharks in January, and is a career 3-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average and .971 save percentage against San Jose.
***St. Louis is at the midway point of a five-game road trip, beating the Kings on Monday, 3-1, but losing to the Ducks last night, 2-1. They are 8-2 in the second half of back-to-backs this season, including six straight wins.
St. Louis is 5-3-0 in its last eight games since trading Kevin Shattenkirk, allowing just 10 total goals. Is it possible the team is coming together after losing such a key piece?
"You see that around the league a lot of times, they move somebody out and the group rallies around that to show that we're bigger than one piece," DeBoer said. "I think you're probably seeing some of that there. I watched them last night in Anaheim, even though they lost they were right in that game and looked really good and they're playing very well right now."
The Blues are 12-7-0 since firing Ken Hitchcock and promoting Mike Yeo on Feb. 1.
DeBoer said: "There been some minor changes to their systems from what they were doing under Hitch. Nothing major, but definitely some different wrinkles than they had before."
***The Sharks could potentially move into a first place tie for the Western Conference's top seed tonight. Minnesota (92 points) is in Carolina, while Chicago (93 points) is in Ottawa.
"We want to [be] winning every game now because we know how important [it is] starting at home during the playoffs. During the Nashville series it was really important we started at home," Tomas Hertl said.
KEEP AN EYE ON...
Sharks: Joe Pavelski. The Sharks captain in among the hottest players in hockey. Fresh off being named the NHL's First Star of the Week last week, Pavelski posted his second straight two-goal game on Tuesday against Buffalo. He's taken over the team lead in goals from Brent Burns with 28, thanks to seven goals in his last five games, and is on the cusp of his fifth career 30-goal campaign.
Blues: Alex Pietrangelo. The defenseman has become even more important to the Blues' success since Kevin Shattenkirk was dealt, and has six assists and a plus-one rating in eight games since then. The 27-year-old is 10th in the NHL with 25:08 of ice time per game, but he's skating 27:23 per game since the trade.
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Marcus Sorensen
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo
Aaron Dell (starter)
Jaden Schwartz – Paul Stastny – Vladimir Tarasenko
Alex Steen – Patrik Berglund – David Perron
Nail Yakupov – Ivan Barbashev – Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson – Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson – Robert Bortuzzo
Carter Hutton (likely starter)
Sharks: David Schlemko (right knee) and Melker Karlsson (lower body) are out.
Blues: Robby Fabbri (left knee), Dmitrij Jaskin (upper body) and Jori Lehtera (upper body) are out.
"St. Louis needs the points. They're coming after a loss, 2-1 against Anaheim. They need every game. Pretty skilled team. We need to be ready for [Vladimir] Tarasenko, [Jaden] Schwartz, and all these guys." – Tomas Hertl