Struggling Sharks return to action at home against Blues

NHL Hockey

The San Jose Sharks will return from their brief pandemic pause to host the St. Louis Blues Saturday night.

The NHL postponed the Sharks’ game against the Vegas Golden Knights Thursday after San Jose forward Tomas Hertl landed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.

No other Sharks player had a positive test, though, so the team returned to work Friday to prepare for the Blues.

The Sharks have lost four of their last six games (2-3-1), but they got three points in St. Louis last week with a 5-4 victory and a 3-2 overtime loss. They are 2-1-1 against the Blues this season.

San Jose will play without Hertl, who is the team’s third-leading scorer (11 points) and the No. 2 forward in ice time (over 19 minutes per game).

The Sharks are coming off a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild Monday night.

“We weren’t good enough offensively,” center Logan Couture said. “We had spurts, but I didn’t think there was much sustained pressure. … There’s goals out there for us to score, there’s opportunities. … We have to work a little bit harder to find those goals.”

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones allowed four goals in that game before getting replaced. He has allowed three or more goals in 10 of his 12 starts this season.

The Sharks will catch the Blues short-handed. St. Louis recently added forward Ivan Barbashev (cracked ankle) and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (season-ending knee surgery) to injured reserve.

The Blues were already missing defenseman Colton Parayko (back injury) and forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (offseason shoulder surgery), Jaden Schwartz (lower-body injury), Tyler Bozak (upper-body injury) and Robert Thomas (broken thumb).

Tarasenko resumed practicing at full speed Friday. Defenseman Marco Scandella also practiced after leaving Wednesday’s game with a facial injury.

The casualties have caught up to them. The Blues have lost three consecutive games and four of their last five. They suffered two shutouts during that span.

St. Louis is just 3-6-1 in its last 10 games.

“There’s a lot of frustration in there, you can see it, you can feel it on guys,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said after the Blues lost to the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 Wednesday night. “You could tell we get down a couple of goals, we’re tight. You look at (the Kings), they get up and they’re kind of loose, pucks are bouncing their way.

“The mental part of the game is obviously a huge thing and when you just kind of try to play a little safe and don’t trust yourself, it’s not going to go well and that’s kind of going through the room.”

On the plus side, goaltender Jordan Binnington has played well for the Blues. He has a 2.49 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

“We have guys playing great hockey and defending well and (Binnington’s) playing outstanding,” O’Reilly said. “It just comes down to putting the puck in the net and trusting our game plan is going to work.”

On the negative side, the Blues have struggled with their special teams all season. Their power-play conversion rate, 12.9 percent, is the fourth-worst in the NHL entering Friday. They have killed off 73.9 percent of their penalties, which is the league’s sixth-worst rate.

–Field Level Media

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