AVALANCHE (52-21-7) at SHARKS (49-22-9)
TV: NBCSN, ALT, CSN-CA+
Last 10: Colorado 8-1-1; San Jose 4-4-2
Season series: This is the fourth and final game. The Colorado Avalanche have won two of three against the San Jose Sharks, including a 3-2 win at Pepsi Center on March 29 in the teams' most recent game.
Big story: Colorado moved into first place in the Central Division and guaranteed itself home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. The Avalanche would clinch the Central Division title if they defeat the Sharks in any fashion and the St. Louis Blues lose to the Dallas Stars in regulation. San Jose, which gets forward Tomas Hertl back in the lineup, will finish second in the Pacific Division and is locked into a first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. It has home-ice advantage.
Avalanche: Colorado has earned a point in nine straight games (8-0-1) to move into first place in the Central. Center Paul Stastny scored twice in the win against Vancouver, and Semyon Varlamov made 38 saves to earn his 41st win, moving him past coach Patrick Roy for the most wins in a season by a Colorado goalie.
"I'm pretty lucky to have Patrick as coach, and Francois Allaire is one of the best goalie coaches in the world, for sure," Varlamov said. "He helped me a lot this year, changing my style a little bit. Those two have done a great job."
Varlamov is 41-14-6 with a .927 save percentage, third in the NHL.
Colorado wraps up its regular-season schedule Sunday at the Anaheim Ducks, a game that could determine the top seed in the Western Conference.
Sharks: San Jose has dropped two games in a row and is 2-4-0 in its past six. A 5-2 road loss to Anaheim on Wednesday allowed the Ducks to clinch the Pacific Division title and set up the Sharks' series with the Kings.
"We know we got the Kings. It's going to be a great series," captain Joe Thornton said. "It would've been great (to win the Pacific), but you know, we're in the playoffs, we know who we're going to play, and it's going to be a heck of a first round, so I can't wait."
Antti Niemi was pulled midway through the second period Wednesday after he allowed three goals on 19 shots. He is 2-3-0 with a save percentage of .885 in his past five starts. Alex Stalock stopped nine of 10 shots in relief.
"It probably wasn't Nemo's best game, but we have faith in him," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Al has done a tremendous job this year, so we have faith in our goaltending. They're going to have to play well for us to get where we want to go. That's the furthest thing from my mind right now."
San Jose concludes its regular-season schedule Saturday at the Phoenix Coyotes.
Who's hot: Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, who scored the game-winner Thursday, has a goal in each of the past two games and three in the past five. Stastny has four goals in his past four games and seven points in five. … Sharks forward Logan Couture has two goals in his past three games. Forward Joe Pavelski has at least a point in six of his past seven games. He has five goals and five assists in that span.
Injury report: Colorado center Matt Duchene (knee) is out. Forward Cody McLeod (ankle) and defenseman Cory Sarich (back) are day-to-day. … San Jose forwards Raffi Torres (knee) is on injured reserve. Forward Adam Burish (hand) will likely miss the rest of the regular season, but could return for the playoffs.
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