By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks won't have any sympathy for the banged up, battered Blues when the two Western Conference titans meet for the third time Tuesday night.
The Blues, coming off a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Ottawa Senators Monday, arrived in St. Louis in the early hours of Tuesday morning and did so without having three of their top forwards at their disposal.
Second-line forwards Vladimir Sobotka and Jaden Schwartz did not play Monday because of upper-body injuries, and the Blues (22-6-4) lost captain David Backes for the third period with an upper-body injury after a head on head collision with the Senators' Colin Greening.
The Blues did not skate on Tuesday and the status of Backes, Sobotka and Schwartz was unknown. All three are questionable to play on Tuesday as coach Ken Hitchcock had nothing to report as of early Tuesday afternoon.
The Blues avoided a further scare when Alexander Steen took an illegal check to the head early in the game from Ottawa's Zack Smith. Smith was penalized on the play and as of early Tuesday afternoon, no word from the NHL on whether there will be further discipline as a result of the play. It was very similar to the hit that Sobotka took from Toronto's David Clarkson that resulted in a two-game suspension.
The Blues, who got two goals Monday from Chris Stewart, fell to 14-0-2 when leading after two periods when Cody Ceci scored in overtime to give the Senators the victory.
As for the Sharks, there will be no letups tonight, in their eyes.
"I went back and looked at our last little streak of games, and the (New York) Islanders off back-to-back games and that didn't go too well," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Carolina played back-to-back on the road and that didn't go too well, so we're not counting on it. It's us, not them."
The Sharks (20-7-6) in the middle of one of their toughest stretches of the season at 1-4-1, but they have given the Blues two of their six regulation losses on the season, outscoring St. Louis 12-5.
"The starts have been important both nights," said McLellan, referring to the Sharks' 2-0 first-period lead here Oct. 15 and 4-0 first-period lead Nov. 29 in San Jose. "The power play and penalty kill have been good both nights. Goaltending's been very good and we've played a competitive game. Without that, you really limit your opportunity to win. That type of formula doesn't guarantee you success, but it gives you a better chance."
San Jose, which has been outscored 19-12 in the past six games, is simply looking to get back to the way they were playing when the Sharks were 19-3-5 and holding the best record in the league.
"Our relentless kind of effort and energy that we had at the beginning of the year is missing a little bit," said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, who returns to the scene of where he was the recipient of a check from behind by the Blues' Maxim Lapierre that forced Boyle to miss seven games.
"... Some of that is just the grind of the season and every team goes through it. You've just got to find a way to get that back."
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The Blues' projected lineup based on no early-afternoon recalls from AHL Chicago and the status of Backes, Sobotka and Schwartz as questionable. There is a possibility the Blues could play with seven defensemen:
Brenden Morrow-Alexander Steen-T.J. Oshie
Magnus Paajarvi-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart
Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Adam Cracknell
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal; Brian Elliott will be the backup.
Jordan Leopold (hand) and Ryan Reaves (hand) are on injured reserve but were on the ice doing conditioning drills with head athletic trainer Ray Barile. David Backes (upper body), Vladimir Sobotka (upper body) and Jaden Schwartz (upper body) are day to day and questionable for tonight.
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The Sharks' probable lineup:
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Tommy Wingels
Tomas Hertl-Joe Thornton-Brent Burns
James Sheppard-Joe Pavelski-Marty Havlat
Mike Brown-Andrew Desjardins-John McCarthy
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun
Matt Irwin-Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart-Jason Demers
Antti Niemi will get the start in goal; Alex Stalock is the backup.
Sharks scratches include Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto. Scott Hannan (upper body) has missed four games but is not quite ready to return.
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