The Colorado Avalanche will face a tough test Sunday when the team hosts the San Jose Sharks at Pepsi Center (6:00 p.m.).
The Sharks have recorded their best start in franchise history – gathering 18 of a possible 22 points during October – and are coming off a big win Thursday over the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
“We’re playing a team that’s a very exciting team; a highly skilled team. I know the organization very well and it should make for a very exciting night,” said Avalanche head coach Tony Granato, who spent the final five years of his playing career in San Jose.
The series between Colorado and San Jose has been an even split over the past two years (eight games total), with each team winning four times – twice on the road and twice at home.
“We have to come out tomorrow and have a full 60-minute effort,” said Avs defenseman Brett Clark. “We’re playing a team that’s red-hot right now. They have a lot of skill and some big bodies, so we have to use our speed and commitment to detail to come out on top.”
Two in Two Nights The Avalanche will begin its first set of back-to-back games this season when the club drops the puck against San Jose on Sunday. Following the game, the Avs will travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks at the United Center on Monday.
While playing two games in two nights can take its toll physically on an athlete, players are aware that missing out on a point or two – at any point during the season - can mean the difference between making the playoffs and watching them from home.
“You have to come out and give everything you have,” said Clark. “During the second game of a back-to-back, if you’re not feeling it right from the start – and a lot of guys don’t – you have to do the simple things like getting the puck out and moving it quick. If you keep doing that, things will come around.”
Colorado has eight sets of back-to-back contests on the schedule this season, including two in November. The club will play at Phoenix on Nov. 28 before hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at Pepsi Center on Nov. 29.
The Avalanche played 10 sets of back-to-back games in 2007-08, totaling a 4-6-0 record in the first game and a 6-4-0 mark in the second. Of those 10 sets, the Avs swept two, got swept in two and split the remaining six.
Power-Play Clicking Colorado now owns the 9th best power-play percentage in the NHL after scoring on two of its four opportunities Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Overall, the Avalanche has converted on 11-of-52 (21.2%) chances this season.
“There’s an improvement and we’re happy with it. It’s definitely going to help us win some games,” said Avalanche forward Wojtek Wolski. “There were a lot of games last year where we had power plays and the chances to score big goals, but we didn’t. If you’re strong on your special teams, you’ll obviously do well.”
The Avalanche has finished among the NHL’s top 10 teams in power-play percentage in all but one year since moving to Denver.