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Strange Days: Blues at San Jose Sharks Preview

Sharks represent the biggest challenge yet on this road trip

The road gets a little bumpy tonight
The road gets a little bumpy tonight
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

People are strange on twitter, and no less so in the Blues' corner of the web. Thankfully, there was a lighter mood after the Vancouver win than there was in the Alberta losses. The Blues have finally made it to San Jose and the end of this road trip. A win here, and we can at least say St Louis had a winning record on this trip. Of course, that's a lot easier said than done. The Blues and the Sharks are very similar teams, ones that many in the league are wondering if they'll ever break on through to the next level of playoff contention.

The Sharks have had an interesting year. After trading away Antti Niemi they made another trade for Martin Jones in the offseason. He and the Sharks started the season hot as a pistol, allowing a total of 2 goals in their first 4 games. Even now, Jones has maintained the top goaltending spot and has put together a respectable year (35-19-4 and .919 Sv%) despite never being a starter previously. Before this season, he had never started more than 19 games in an NHL season, and tonight will represent number 60 for him. Shoring up the netminding has proven helpful for the Sharks, and where the Kings once seemed to be running away with the Pacific Division they now find themselves in an actual race. These are strange days in the Pacific. The Sharks are in third place, only 1 point behind Anaheim and 5 points behind LA. Playoff seeding is still totally up for grabs in the Pacific. To further prepare for the stretch run and the postseason, the Sharks completed two trades at the deadline, both with the Leafs. On Feb 22, they traded 2 second-round picks and Raffi Torres' contract to Toronto in exchange for Roman Polak and Nick Spaling . Less than a week later, they then sent Alex Stalock, Ben Smith and a 4th to Toronto in exchange for James Reimer and Jeremy Morin.

Those trades have proved to be helpful. Roman Polak has an assist, Spaling has 2 goals and an assist, and Reimer has started 4 games for San Jose, notching 2 shutouts in a 3-1-0 record and .952 save percentage. That last shutout was on Sunday, when the Sharks blanked Arizona 3-0. That was their second win in a row, and San Jose has a 7-3 record in their last ten games. It's a good time of the year to get hot, and the Sharks certainly seem to be just that. One interesting quirk of their record, though: while the Sharks have been dominant with a 25-10-3 road record, they have been only so-so with a 16-15-3 home record. That's something that they'd like to fix on the 6-game homestand that they're on.

The Blues have already announced Brian Elliott as the starter, fresh off his shutout in Vancouver. San Jose will give Elliott a little more work to do - where the Canucks were bottom 5 in SOG per game, the Sharks average about 30 SOG per game. That's middle of the pack, just ahead of the Blues. And those shots are coming from some real powerhouses: Joe Thornton is having another incredible year and leads the Sharks in overall points with 70 (17g, 53a). The goals leader is Joe Pavelski with 34 on the year (and second in points with 69). Next is defenseman and ersatz wookie Brent Burns with 65 points (26g, 39a), and a team leading -by a wide margin- 305 shots on goal. So yeah, Moose is going to have his work cut out for him. Currently Coach Hitch is riding Elliott and giving Jake Allen some time to recuperate from a heavy workload. The musical chairs of the St Louis crease continues. When the music's over, who knows who will get the start in the playoffs? We won't have to answer that until the time comes.

Further Reading:

Fear The Fin

Battle Of California

The Canafornians

GameDay Twitter Feed:

Final Verse: The puck drops at 9:30 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should drop shortly beforehand. The TV broadcast will be on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120. Please do join us for the GameDay Thread. We'll keep each other awake, although I kinda hope the Blues do it first. The chocolate-covered espresso beans I have are just the backup plan.

Here's Mr Mojo Risin' with the score prediction: