The second-seeded St. Louis Blues will try to wrap up their Western Conference quarterfinal series tonight, as they host the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 at Scottrade Center.
The Blues, who won the Central Division title this season for the first time since 1999-2000, have taken the last three games of this series after losing Game 1 in double overtime. With another victory tonight, St. Louis will advance to the second round for the first time since the spring of 2002, when it beat Chicago in the conference quarterfinals before losing to Detroit in the next round.
Meanwhile, the seventh-seeded Sharks, who made it to the Western Conference finals in each of the past two seasons, haven't been ousted in the opening round of the playoffs since losing to Anaheim in the 2009 conference quarterfinals.
The Blues were 30-6-5 as the host during the regular season, while the Sharks were 17-17-7 as the guest. If St. Louis fails to end the series tonight, San Jose will host Game 6 at the Shark Tank on Monday.
Brian Elliott led St. Louis to a 2-1 victory in Thursday's Game 4 in San Jose, posting 24 saves to give the Blues a commanding 3-1 edge in this best-of-seven series.
Andy McDonald and B.J. Crimean each scored a goal while Patrick Berglund and David Perron posted two assists apiece for the Blues.
"We recognize how close these games are and how hard the next one is going to be to win," Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're going to have to obviously play our best, but I think we're dealing with the pressure that goes with winning and closing a team out."
Elliott has started the last two games in net for St. Louis after Jaroslav Halak was forced to leave Game 2 with a lower-body injury. Halak is still not ready to suit up and Jake Allen will once again serve as Elliott's backup tonight.
San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi gave up both goals on 24 shots in Game 4. Joe Thornton scored the Sharks' only goal, tallying 1:07 before the end of regulation.
"They're doing a good job of blocking the shots when they can and forcing us to shoot wide. That's just good defense and that's what they do. They pride themselves on that," Sharks head coach Todd McLelllan said about St. Louis.
The Blues are in the playoffs for just the second time in the post-lockout era and entered this postseason coming off their first division title since 2000. St. Louis is hoping to avoid its fate from 12 years ago, when it won the division and claimed the top seed in the West only to get bounced out in the first round by San Jose.