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Sharks at Blues preview: Keep your head above water

NHL: San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

A quick glance at the Western Conference standings this morning shows an unpleasant reality: the rest of the Central Division has caught up to the Blues. St. Louis sits now in the first wild card spot, a slow and steady decline from the start of the season when they sat atop the division. Uneven play has been the culprit since the loss of Jaden Schwartz in November, and even with his return, the Blues have been unable to recapture the oomph that they showed at the start of the season.

Doug Armstrong would like to fix that by adding some scoring at the trade deadline. For right now, Mike Yeo has to fix it with tweaking some lines. From Tom Timmerman of the Post-Dispatch:

The big changes: Dmitrij Jaskin moving up into the top six, playing alongside Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn in the spot most recently held down by Patrik Berglund; Kyle Brodziak moving up to center a third line with Vladimir Sobotka and Berglund on his wings, and Oskar Sundqvist getting back into the lineup for the first time since Jan. 9.

I’m not a hundred percent sure that “Dmitrij Jaskin: scoring winger” is a thing that we’ll see, nor are these lines something that will save the team (nor is the recent call-up of Sammy Blais), but the purpose here is to light a fire under someone’s ass.

If the slide down the standings hasn’t consistently done it, I don’t think this will, either.

The Sharks also have 72 points (in one more game played than the Blues) and sit second in the Pacific, ten points behind the runaway Vegas Golden Knights. The Blues have won four of their last six home games, which looks good, but they’re a painfully average 5-4-1 in their last ten. The Sharks are a strong road team (15-10-5) and have a slightly better last ten played record (6-3-1).

The Blues haven’t played San Jose yet this season, and right now have a four-game win streak against a team that used to give them fits. They outscored them 11-3 last season. Maybe they still have the Sharks’ number, and tonight will be yet another of the jumpstarting games the Blues have had before modest success. Whatever it is, the team can’t afford a loss. The Wild are one point behind, and the Western Conference wild card race isn’t a secure place to be right now.