Brian Elliott helped the St. Louis Blues eliminate the San Jose Sharks from last year's postseason, but his club may have recently found a new solution in goal.
Rookie Jake Allen has been solid in winning his first three NHL starts and could make his first at home Tuesday night when the Blues try to hand the Sharks an eighth straight defeat.
These teams will meet for the first time since St. Louis (9-5-1) ousted San Jose in five games in the first round. Elliott replaced an injured Jaroslav Halak in a 3-0 victory in Game 2 before posting a 1.67 goals-against average in winning his three starts over the rest of the series.
Elliott now owns one of the worst GAAs in the league at 3.57 while Halak hasn't played since Feb. 1 due to a groin strain.
The 22-year-old Allen has been called up twice from Peoria of the AHL, most recently last Tuesday. He posted a 2.58 GAA in winning all three games on the Blues' road trip, capped by a 28-save performance Sunday in a 4-3 shootout win over Vancouver.
"(Allen) has really helped stabilize us," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's just a solid guy, there's no holes in his game. It's a big step for us."
The Blues are starting a set of games on back-to-back nights, with a visit to Colorado on Wednesday. Hitchcock said he will likely start Allen in one contest and Halak in the other.
Elliott had a dreadful .791 save percentage as the starter during a winless four-game homestand before giving way to Allen last week. St. Louis now tries to avoid its first five-game home skid since Dec. 18, 2009-Jan. 2, 2010.
San Jose (7-4-3), meanwhile, is enduring its longest losing streak since an 0-7-3 stretch Nov. 5-30, 2005. The Sharks, who fell 4-1 at Chicago on Friday, won all seven games in January for the best start in franchise history before losing every contest this month.
"It's amazing what's happened in 15 days," coach Todd McLellan said. "It doesn't even look like the same team, it's not even remotely close. Are we going to rely on what we saw early in the year and the performances that we were receiving or are we going to take these next seven games and evaluate on that?"
Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton each amassed 14 points through six contests, but that duo has combined for two over the last eight games.
The Sharks have had three days off since reaching the halfway point of a six-game road trip that takes them back to Chicago on Friday.
"Maybe another break will help us, we can regroup and get ready for two more really hard games," center Logan Couture said. "I know St. Louis is a good team, obviously we know that and Chicago again. We're worried about St. Louis now."
While Thornton led San Jose with five points in last year's playoff series against St. Louis, Andy McDonald paced the Blues with eight points and Patrik Berglund added seven.
Berglund will seek his first career four-game goal streak for St. Louis, which also swept four 2011-12 regular-season meetings from San Jose. Marleau was held without a point in all of those games as well as the first-round series.
The Blues went 6 for 18 on the power play in the playoffs against the Sharks and currently lead the league at 34.6 percent.
The Associated Press News Service
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