Sharks-Blues Preview

The Associated Press

The San Jose Sharks got back on track before hitting the road.

Staying on the right path could be a challenge as they open their lengthy trip against the St. Louis Blues.

The Pacific Division-leading Sharks look to avoid their first three-game losing streak in this matchup since 2003 on Sunday night when the Blues try to extend their franchise-record home point streak to 19 games.

Playing its final home game until Feb. 28, San Jose (30-16-6) avoided losing three straight in regulation for the first time since October with Friday's 5-3 victory over Chicago.

"It's going to make us feel a little bit better,'' coach Todd McLellan said. "But we know the task ahead of us is a really tough one. It's a great challenge for our group."

The Sharks open their nine-game trip with just one road win in their last five tries. Even with a 1-0 loss at St. Louis on Dec. 10, San Jose is 10-3-1 in its last 14 visits there.

Brian Elliott made 24 saves for the Blues (32-14-7) in that matchup - the first between St. Louis left wing David Perron and San Jose captain Joe Thornton since Perron suffered concussion-like symptoms and missed 97 games following a Thornton hit on Nov. 4, 2010.

Perron, who assisted on Kevin Shattenkirk's power-play goal in that victory, has scored five times in the last three games after recording two power-play goals in Saturday's 3-2 overtime victory over Colorado.

The Blues, who have matched last season's win total (23) on home ice, are 27-1-3 at Scottrade Center in their last 31 with Perron in the lineup.

St. Louis is 15-0-3 at home since its last regulation loss to a visiting team.

"That's one thing about us. We've been finding a way to do it at home," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said Saturday after deflecting Patrick Berglund's shot into the net for the game-winner.

The Blues, three points back of Western Conference-leading Detroit in the Central Division, are trying to win three straight in this series for first time since a five-game run from Jan. 9-Dec. 18, 2003.

Giving Elliott a fourth consecutive start might give St. Louis the best chance to inch closer to that run, especially since Jaroslav Halak has allowed 11 goals in his last three starts versus San Jose - all St. Louis losses.

Elliott is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average in the two matchups between these clubs in 2011-12. In his first start in a Blues jersey, he stopped 34 shots in a 4-2 road win over the Sharks on Oct. 15.

Perron and Blues center Andy McDonald were both sidelined that game with concussions, but McDonald is expected to return to the ice Sunday for the first time since Oct. 13.

''It's been kind of a tough recovery,'' McDonald said after the morning skate. ''Obviously a long time, but I'm excited that this day is finally here. Get in the game, play the game and not think, that'll be the key.''

There's a good chance the Blues will face Antti Niemi. The Sharks netminder made 18 saves in the Dec. 10 loss after backup Thomas Greiss was between the pipes in the first matchup this season.

Niemi is 0-3-0 with a 2.40 GAA in his last three starts in St. Louis.

Thornton has four goals and five assists during a five-game point streak, while Logan Couture has five goals and seven assists during a career-best eight-game run with at least one point.

Both have been held off the scoresheet by St. Louis this season.

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