The San Jose Sharks played 28 road games last season. Only twice were they able to win consecutive games away from home: two versus the Anaheim Ducks in March and two against the Los Angeles Kings in April.
This season, the Sharks already have a three-game road winning streak to their credit, and now have a chance to close out a five-game road trip with a winning record by beating the St. Louis Blues tonight at Enterprise Center. Game time is 5 p.m. (PT).
The Sharks are coming off an impressive 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday to improve to 2-2-0 on this five-game swing that started Nov. 9 in Calgary and continued through Winnipeg and Colorado.
They’re running into a Blues team Tuesday that has lost four straight games and hasn’t won in regulation time since a 5-3 victory at SAP Center in San Jose on Nov. 4. The Sharks are 5-4-0 on the road this season and St. Louis, in fourth place in the Central Division, are 3-3-1 at home.
The Sharks are going with the same lineup as they had against the Wild, including goalie James Reimer, who will start for the third time in four games.
“We’re coming into a bit of a hornet’s nest here,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “They’ve lost four in a row and they switched their lines, and we know how that goes. We were talking this morning about just being ready. We know they’re going to come hard, but it’s more about us replicating what we did in Minnesota.”
Boughner loved the details of Tuesday’s win. The Sharks blocked 18 shots, led by three each from both Mario Ferraro and Brent Burns, stuck up for each other in a handful of instances, and were physical on the forecheck.
The Sharks (8-6-1) enter Thursday in sixth place in the Pacific Division, six points back of the first-place Ducks.
After tonight, the Sharks are home for games against Washington, Carolina, Ottawa, and Toronto.
“We need the same effort from everybody,” Sharks center Tomas Hertl said. “We’ve won eight games this year because we play tight and together and we have to do it against a really good team tonight.
“It’s a big game for us because it’s the last game on the road (before) a quick homestand, and we need these points because other teams in the Pacific Division are winning. We need this game tonight.”
Despite having a .500 record on this trip so far, the Sharks have outscored the four teams they’ve played 5-3 in the third period.
“I keep saying it’s a process throughout the game,” Boughner said. “that’ll pay dividends in the third period, wearing teams down and playing hard.”
The Blues have scored four goals in their last 14 chances with the man advantage and enter Thursday with the NHL’s second-ranked power play at 30.0 percent. The Sharks, though, have the league’s top-ranked penalty kill at 90.2 percent, having killed 22 of their last 23 penalties. In the Nov. 4 meeting with St. Louis, the Sharks killed all four penalties they took.
Jordan Kyrou has two goals and four assists on the power play for St. Louis, and David Perron has three goals and two assists. Torey Krug, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Robert Thomas have a combined one goal and 11 assists on the man advantage this season.
“They work in unison and Perron gets on that one side, and (Ryan O’Reilly) feeds off that and they look for that little soft area, those little pop plays a lot,” Boughner said. “We have to have good sticks against that. Also, if they seam (pass) you, they’re looking to back door you right away with tip plays around the net.
“Our (defense) has to be aware that if we get beat once through the seam, we can’t get beat twice.”
BOUGHNER ON THE CHANGE IN MEIER: Timo Meier has at least one point in nine of his 10 games this season and is coming off of a two-point performance Tuesday in Minnesota.
Asked again about Meier on Thursday morning, Boughner said, “I think Timo’s come back and has tried to take on more of a leadership role in the dressing room. He’s a lot more vocal, he’s taken young guys under his wing, and he looks like he’s having a lot more fun.
“I thought he put a lot of pressure on himself last year and sometimes when we talked, it was more confrontational. I think this year he’s more accepting of the teaching and the help. He’s enjoying it, and he should. He’s playing his game and he’s having fun.”
NOTES: Forward Lane Pederson remains with the team in St. Louis but will miss his third straight game Thursday after he was hurt in last week’s game in Winnipeg. Boughner initially said that Pederson could miss up to two weeks with the lower-body injury that happened when he was hit by Jets defenseman Logan Stanley.