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Avs Begin Home-And-Home Series vs. Sharks

Colorado and San Jose square off for the first of two meetings this season

by Danielle Bernstein / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche stays in California, taking on the San Jose Sharks in the second game of a two-game road swing on Saturday. It will be the first of two meetings between the teams this season, with the second matchup taking place on Monday night at Pepsi Center. The Sharks are the only Pacific Division team that Colorado plays just twice this season--the Avalanche faces the other six squads three times each.

The Avs are 39-31-11 overall against San Jose, including a 17-19-5 record on the road.

Last Time Out

Both Colorado and San Jose played on Thursday night with the Sharks taking a 2-1 home win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Avs falling 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Avalanche held a 1-0 lead over Anaheim entering the third period, but the Ducks scored twice in the final 20 minutes of regulation to take the win. Goaltender Calvin Pickard, making his 20th start of the season, finished with 34 saves, including 22 in the first period.

San Jose's victory was its third straight. Rookie Ryan Carpenter scored in the second period and Logan Couture, who returned to lineup after missing the previous game with an illness, notched the game-winner just 22 seconds into the final frame. Backup goaltender Aaron Dell made 24 saves.

Video: Gardner and Rycroft preview the game

Last Time They Met

Colorado and San Jose last met on Feb. 24, 2016, with the Avs earning a 4-3 shootout win at home. Gabriel Landeskog led all skaters with a goal and an assist, and Nathan MacKinnon buried what stood as the winning goal in the skills competition. Calvin Pickard started that contest, making 30 saves in the win. The Avs were 1-for-2 on the power play while holding the Sharks scoreless on their only man-advantage opportunity.

What to Watch

Avalanche Power Play

The Avs have scored a power-play goal in two straight games and are 4-for-19 in the month of January. That 21.1 success rate ranks 13th in the NHL over that time span.

Matt Duchene, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog are tied for the team lead with three man-advantage goals apiece, and Nathan MacKinnon's nine power-play points lead all Avalanche skaters.

San Jose Offense

The Sharks offense has begun to hit its stride. Through the first 26 games of the season (up to Dec. 10), San Jose was tied for 26th in the league in goals, averaging 2.38 per game. Since then, the team ranks eighth with 56 tallies. In the month of January alone, the Sharks have found the back of the net 28 times, averaging more than three goals per game.

Player to Watch

Colorado: Left wing Matt Nieto

Saturday's game will be the first for Nieto against the Sharks, the organization he spent his entire pro career with prior to being claimed by the Avalanche off of waivers on Jan. 5.

"I think the day of the game, all of the emotions will be there, but I think it will be fun though," said Nieto of playing San Jose prior to leaving for the road trip. "I have a lot of really good friends on that team that I've known for a few years and played with for a few years. It should be fun, and it's a fun building to play in, so it'll be a good game."

Nieto has tallied a goal and an assist in five games in an Avalanche uniform; his first goal for the team came against Chicago on Tuesday.

"I think he's doing real well. I think a couple things stand out for me: he plays with pace, he's always moving his feet, skating. He is gritty for a little guy, goes to the hard areas," said head coach Jared Bednar following the team's practice on Wednesday. "I see him making plays with and without the puck on the offensive side of things and also the defensive side of things. So he's been a nice addition to the team, there's no question about it."

San Jose: Defenseman Brent Burns

The defenseman's 19 goals and 47 points lead all NHL blueliners by a long shot--Shea Weber's 10 goals and Victor Hedman's 38 points rank second in their respective categories. Burns brings a two-game goal streak into Saturday's contest and was the Sharks' leading scorer in the 2015-16 four-game season series against the Avalanche, registering six points (three goals, three assists).

Lineup Notes

Goaltender Spencer Martin will make his NHL debut on Saturday night. Martin was recalled for the fourth time this season on Jan. 18. He's tied for fourth in the American Hockey League with 15 wins and was selected to represent the Pacific Division at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic.

Defenseman Tyson Barrie and forward Rene Bourque did not participate in Friday's practice in San Jose and are listed as day-to-day with lower-body injuries.

The Details

Saturday's game starts at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen live on Altitude 2. Fans can listen in on FM 92.5 The Wolf or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.

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