SAN JOSE, Calif.--Having last played a full week ago, the Colorado Avalanche finally returns to game action tonight.
The Avs open their second-round set of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs this evening against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center. Colorado advanced to this series after defeating the Calgary Flames in five games during the first round of the postseason, while San Jose won its set with the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games.
"It's going to be a tough series, one of the best teams in the West the last couple of years," Carl Soderberg said of the Sharks after today's morning skate. "We know how they play their roster. I think if we stick to our game, we play our game, down the road we are going to be fine."
Colorado won the last four contests of the matchup with Calgary, outscoring the Flames 17-7 in that span. It marked the first time that the Avs won four-straight games in the postseason since 2001, when they swept the Vancouver Canucks in the first round.
Against Calgary, Colorado averaged 41 shots per game, the only NHL team to record a mean amount over 40 so far during the postseason. The Avs also ranked fourth in both goals per game (3.40) and fewest goals-against per game (2.20) in the first round.
In order to continue to have success in the playoffs, the intensity level against the Sharks will have the be greater for Colorado than it was against the Flames.
"It's motivating guys or making sure we get back to the same standard we had against Calgary," said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. "I think you're moving on, your game should only get better. It should only trend in one direction. We know there will be ups and downs but for us, it's a matter of having a mindset of picking up where you left off and making sure we do that here tonight."
Video: Gabriel Landeskog before Game 1 vs. Sharks
In comparison to Colorado's week between sets, the Sharks had two days between the best-of-seven series.
The Avalanche used that extra time to rest, recover and be as prepared as it could heading into its matchup with San Jose.
"You want to make a real run at this thing here, and for us it doesn't stop after Round 1 and beating one of the top seeds," added Landeskog. "It's about putting it in the next gear and making sure that we get better as a team. I still say it, we haven't seen the best from our team yet. I still think there's a lot more to come. I like where we're at, it's an exciting time to be an Avalanche fan and it's an exciting time to be an Avalanche player as well."
HISTORY WITH THE SHARKS
The matchup between the Avalanche and Sharks marks the fifth time that the clubs will meet in the postseason.
The Avalanche is 2-2 in the previous four series, winning 4-2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals in 1999 and 4-3 in the 2002 Western Conference Semifinals.
San Jose has advanced in the last two meetings, winning the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals and 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals in six games each. This season, the Sharks won all three contests between the clubs, two of those by a one-goal margin.
The only other opponent that has faced Colorado more in the playoffs is the Detroit Red Wings, who have battled with the Avs six times.
Forward Matt Nieto has spent the last two and a half seasons with the Avalanche after the team claimed him on waivers from San Jose on Jan. 5, 2017.
The Long Beach, California, native played his first 221 NHL games and 23 Stanley Cup Playoff contests with the Sharks, the team that used its first draft pick on him in 2011 (No. 47 overall).
"It's a little bit weird, it's going to be more fun than anything," Nieto said of facing the Sharks. "They're going to be a great challenge for us, they're a team that has a lot of experience and came off a pretty emotional series. It's going to be a great series, big battle and we're all ready for it in here."
Nieto leads all NHL players with two short-handed goals this postseason, tying the franchise record for a single playoff year.
Forward Derick Brassard and defenseman Samuel Girard will be back in the lineup tonight after missing the last three games of the series against Calgary.
Brassard--who missed the contests with an illness--will be on a line with Tyson Jost and Gabriel Bourque, while Girard--who was out after sustaining an upper-body injury at the end of Game 2--will be on a defensive pairing with Erik Johnson.
Philipp Grubauer will remain between the pipes for Colorado. The German netminder went 4-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average and .939 save percentage during the first round against Calgary.
VIEW: Avalanche at Sharks Game 1 Projected Lineup
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar discusses his Game 1 lineup
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 the contest 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.