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Morning Skate Report: Tight Series Shifts to San Jose

Avalanche and Sharks look to gain the Advantage heading into Game 5

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

SAN JOSE, Calif.--In a back-and-forth playoff series, the Colorado Avalanche looks to become the first team to win consecutive games this evening when it faces the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of Round 2 at SAP Center.

The Avalanche and Sharks have split the first four games of the best-of-seven set, with each club winning one at home and one on the road. Colorado is coming off a 3-0 victory on Thursday at Pepsi Center and is expecting another tough matchup against the Pacific Division's No. 2 team during the regular season.

"They're going to be desperate tonight, they don't want to be down 3-2 going back for Game 6," said Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon. "It's going to be a tough game, I'm sure we're going to see their best. They're going to see our best, so hopefully we come out on top."

The Sharks won the first contest of the series at home 5-2 before the Avalanche bounced back with a 4-3 win in Game 2. Colorado dropped its first home outing by a 4-2 score on Tuesday and faced the prospects of digging out of deep series deficit heading into Thursday's contest. The Western Conference's second wild-card club responded by putting together one of its most solid outings of the season.

The Avs had high-quality scoring chances throughout the contest and received a shutout from goalie Philipp Grubauer to even the series at 2-2.

"I think you build good habits and you get confidence when you play well, so certainly last game was probably one of our best that we've had throughout the playoffs," said Erik Johnson, who scored the empty-net goal in Game 4 to seal the victory. "Definitely makes you feel good when you can play that way, we know we're capable of playing that 1-0 game if we need to.

"Make no mistake about it, I think we're going to see a better Sharks team tonight. They're going to be hungry at home and they're really good at home, so we have to steal it on the road, bottom line."

It has been a series of adjustments, and that is one of the reasons why neither squad has won consecutive contests.

The Avalanche improved its puck play and forecheck from Games 3 to 4, but the squad still has areas it wants to clean up heading into tonight's matchup.

"We adjusted to their neutral zone. They kind of play a 1-4, it's really passive and they stay on the line with their forwards," MacKinnon said. "If we turn pucks over we're going to get burned, so we have to fix that from Game 4."

San Jose will certainly make changes to its own game plan this evening with the winner of two of the next three contests advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

"We know that every time we play here, they come back strong," said Samuel Girard. "First 10 minutes, we know that they're going to come strong, so we have experience with that and we're going to have to play like we did last game at home. We know we're going to have to focus on us, make sure that we do what we can do on the ice."

LINEUP UPDATES

Coming off a 3-0 win in Game 4 against the Sharks, the Avalanche could possibly tweak its lineup ahead of Saturday night's tilt.

"There possibly could be some lineup changes," said head coach Jared Bednar following morning skate. "I don't know exactly on my lineup yet. I'm still working through a couple things."

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer has started all nine playoff contests for Colorado, posting a 6-0-3 record, 2.17 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

VIEW: Avalanche at Sharks Game 5 Projected Lineup
 

WHERE TO WATCH

Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT at SAP Center, and the game can be viewed nationally on NBCSN in the United States or streamed on select devices with the NBC Sports app or NHL.tv. It will also be televised on CBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. The Avalanche radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio FM 92.5 in the Denver area or online at Colorado Avalanche.com

Altitude TV will feature a 30-minute pregame show prior to each Avs contest of Round 2 and an hour-long postgame show immediately following the conclusion of each matchup.

The official Avalanche Watch Party, presented by Coors Light, will be at Sports Column in downtown Denver this evening. In addition to watching Game 1 with fellow fans, the team will be giving away special prizes throughout the evening, including player-signed items.

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