W2W4: St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks, Game 6
SAN JOSE, Calif. — To the St. Louis Blues, this is essentially the first of two Game 7s. For the San Jose Sharks, up 3-2 in the Western Conference finals, it’s a chance to make franchise history. Here’s what to watch for in Game 6, which begins at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday in San Jose:
• This will be game No. 20 of the postseason for the Blues, whose first two series went seven games. That grind, along with the travel back and forth across a couple of time zones during this series, has led to a weariness that the players are trying their best to ignore.
“Fatigue always plays a factor,” said veteran Blues forward Scottie Upshall. “Travel, games played, moments like this are when you try not to think about how tired you are or how mentally fatigued you are. No matter what the stakes are you have to go out and get the job done, whether you’re hurt, tired, have issues at home. This is 60 minutes of hockey for your season.”
Expect Upshall to suit up for Game 6, likely in place of Magnus Paajarvi, as Blues coach Ken Hitchcock continues to work players in and out of his lineup.
“He’s healthy now,” Hitchcock said of plugging in Upshall, who missed Game 5 with an upper-body injury. “He’s got speed. He’s gotten nasty. He’s great on PK. I can play him up the lineup. End of period, the game is on the line, I can play him anywhere. He’s a valuable player for us.”
• Because their season is on the line, the Blues will shorten the bench on Wednesday night if necessary and ride their stars hard. Expect a short leash from Hitchcock up and down the lineup if players aren’t playing well in this critical game.
“We can’t wait and hope,” Hitchcock said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure we got the right people on the ice. We’re not hoping that a guy’s a worker or that a guy is going to play well and execute. We’re going to hope that everybody does it. But if it happens that somebody isn’t, we’re not going to wait on it.”
• The Blues will reap the benefits of a rested Brian Elliott, who will start in goal in place of Jake Allen, who played the previous two games. Elliott was starting to look fatigued before his break and should be sharp tonight after getting a chance to reset during the playoffs.
Until this series, he’d started every postseason game for the Blues and also had a heavy workload down the stretch during the regular season while Allen was injured. Over the last two months, he has played 25 games in 61 days — and it was starting to show.
He should be fresh for Game 6 and a possible Game 7.
“He’s played a lot of hockey, made some important saves for us throughout this entire playoffs,” said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “He’s played great. He’s stood on his head. Takes a lot of energy. So the opportunity for him to kind of regain that is going to benefit him.”
• From the moment the Sharks won Game 5, they’ve had to answer questions about just how close they are to playing for their first Stanley Cup. They will have to fight off the temptation to look ahead and focus on closing out a very motivated Blues team that is undefeated (2-0) in elimination games.
“This team has done a good job taking things day by day, shift by shift,” said Sharks forward Joe Thornton. “We have to continue to do that tonight.”
That said, Thornton knows just how much the San Jose community desperately wants a chance to play for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
“It’d be huge,” Thornton said. “They’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Hopefully we can do it for them.”