St. Louis Blues Continue West Coast Trip in San Jose

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 15: BJ Crombeen #26 of the St. Louis Blues tries to stuff the puck pass goalie Antti Niemi #31 of the of the San Jose Sharks during an NHL hockey game at the HP Pavilion on January 15, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

With a loss Wednesday night against Anahiem, the St. Louis Blues were almost officially eliminated from the playoff race. Then they went out and shelled the LA Kings, beating them 4-0 and humiliating a playoff team.

Tonight the Blues travel to San Jose to face another playoff team and one that, even though they hold the three spot, are still looking to solidify their position in the conference.

Matt D’Agostini has been on a roll the last few games as he has a four game point streak and is coming off a two goal outburst against the Kings.  With Alex Steen out with injury, players like D’Agostini, TJ Oshie and Patrik Berglund needed to step up and so far have done a fine job.

David Backes has been the team’s MVP this season and has continued to prove he is an elite player in this league. In his last six games, Backes has two goals and four assists while stamping his resume for team captain next year.

Jaroslav Halak is in his sixth game back from a broken hand and has had four really good games and one really bad game. Halak is 3-2 in those five games including beating his former team Montreal and collecting his fifth shutout in Thursday against the Kings.

After a sluggish start to the season, the Sharks are right where everyone thought they would be at near the end of the season. The Sharks sit third in the West but are only one point ahead of division rival Phoenix for that three seed and could fall all the way to eigth if they have a bad week.

The Sharks have seen a resurgence in players like Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski inthe second half of the season to climb out of the early hole they were in. Couple that with regular seasons by Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley and you have a very dangerous team yet again.

Pavelski is on a hot streak with eight points in the last three games including a career high four assists in the Sharks 6-3 victory over Dallas. Thornton is always a pain in the rear end for the Blues and in their last meeting he netted a goal and an assist in the 4-2 victory.

The Sharks will be without their second leading scorer Dany Heatley as he is serving the second game of a two game suspension handed down for a dangerous hit on Dallas’ Steve Ott. Heatley has 24 goals this season and had two goals in the last game versus St. Louis. The Blues will be very happy to not see him on the ice tonight.

Antti Niemi has has shown that he is every bit the goalie he was when he led Chicago to the Cup last year. Niemi is 28-17-5 this year and his 2.46 GAA ranks him 15th in the league. Niemi is 1-0 against St. Louis this year and 3-2-0 in his career.

While the playoffs are pretty much out of the picture for the Blues they still are mathematically in it and sit ten points back with eleven to play. These last eleven games are a good showcase for the younger talent to prove they belong and a chance to see if Coach Payne can hang on to the team when they are officially eliminated.

Puck drops at 9:30 CST from HP Pavilion.

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