Blues-Sharks Preview

The Associated Press

St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre illegally checked San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle into the boards in the last meeting between these teams, contributing to a combined 89 penalty minutes and a slew of harsh words.

The scene marred a matchup between two of the NHL's top teams, and grudges still may remain as the surging Blues visit the Sharks on Friday.

Boyle had to be carried off on a stretcher and subsequently missed seven games due to the hit from behind by Lapierre, who was suspended for St. Louis' next five.

"It's just disgusting to see that type of play in hockey, when a player that probably shouldn't even be in this league is taking out one of the best players in the world," Sharks center Logan Couture said after the Oct. 15 contest. "(Lapierre) has got a history."

San Jose (16-3-5) responded to that first-period incident with a flurry of offense, winning 6-2 as captain Joe Thornton had a goal and three assists. How it will handle seeing Lapierre on the ice for the first time since that day remains to be seen.

The Sharks have won three straight and six of seven after Thornton scored in the second period and netted the winner in the eighth round of the shootout to beat Los Angeles 3-2 on Wednesday.

Coach Todd McLellan also has been impressed with the line of Tyler Kennedy, Martin Havlat and Joe Pavelski. Kennedy and Havlat assisted on Pavelski's second-period goal.

"They're starting to feel more comfortable with each other," McLellan said. "You've got Pav who can be a shooter and a playmaker, T.K. has a pretty good shot and Marty makes plays. It's a good combination."

Pavelski scored in the contentious first meeting with the Blues, who have won 10 of the clubs' last 13 matchups, including the postseason.

St. Louis (18-3-3) is 10-1-1 in its last 12 and has outscored opponents 19-5 during a season-best five-game winning streak after beating Colorado 4-1 on Wednesday. David Backes had a goal and an assist, and Alexander Steen scored his third goal in two games to give him 20 on the season.

The Blues have a power-play goal in six of their last eight games while killing off 23 of 25 short-handed situations.

"Our 5-on-5 play is getting better and our special teams have really carried us," coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Steen is tied with Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goals, and he's tied for second in points with 30.

"We are sticking to the way we play. We have been for the last little while," Steen said. "Pucks are bouncing our way, we are taking care in our own end and our goaltending has been phenomenal."

Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves Wednesday and has a 0.98 goals-against average in four starts during St. Louis' winning streak. One of only two games in which he was pulled this season came last month against the Sharks, stopping 22 of 26 shots in two periods.

Antti Niemi made 25 saves to win that matchup after going 2-8-0 in his previous 11 starts versus the Blues, including the playoffs. He's started all of San Jose's home games, going 8-1-2, though it's unclear if he'll be in net for this contest with the Sharks also playing Saturday.

Backup Alex Stalock is 3-0-0 with a 1.41 GAA in three starts and one relief appearance.

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