When the San Jose Sharks hit the Scottrade Center ice to take on the Western Confernece rival St. Louis Blues at 5:00 p.m. PDT Tuesday, March 12, no a lot will have changed on paper since the preview from Saturday's game. But this game will have an element the first one in Missouri had because the road team will be looking for redemption.
In early February, the Sharks were at a crossroads. Either their struggles would overwhelm them or they would pull out a much-needed win against the team that nearly swept them out of the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. They battled their way to a 2-1 win to stop the bleeding. (Unfortunately, it started back up when they lost the next two games.)
For this game, they have the sting of giving up—no, choking away—a 3-1, third-period lead against the Blues Saturday. And while their February struggles are to some extent behind them, they are just one point above .500 in March and have hardly looked strong in the process.
This puts them at a crossroads again. The offense and power play have shown signs of awakening, but the defense has broken down a little. If they can put some offense and the defense they honed during their struggles together, they can beat a team right behind them in the Western Conference standings that has been getting some of the worst goalie play in the NHL.
If not, they cannot wait until the trade deadline to make a change or they might be out of the hunt for the 2013 Stanley Cup. While there do seem to be lapses in intensity from time to time with the Sharks, a look at how the units compare with the Blues shows the problem is primarily linked to roster deficiencies.
Injury update: San Jose is without forward Martin Havlat and goalie Thomas Greiss. However, CSN Bay Area is reporting Tuesday afternoon that Brent Burns is set to return to the lineup as a forward for this game, playing the wing with Scott Gomez and James Sheppard, meaning Tim Kennedy is likely to sit for the first time since being called up from the minors.
Todd McLellan used Burns as a forward several years ago with the Houston Aeros of the AHL, but has been on defense for his entire NHL career:
If he gets cleared and he plays, we’ll probably play him up front and on the back end a little bit – a bit of a rover. We’ll see if we can use his speed and his shot to create up front, but obviously there’s an asset to having him back there. He’ll see some power play time, as well.
St. Louis is without forwards Jamie Langenbrunner, Vladimir Tarasenko, Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen.