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Avalanche-Sharks Preview

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Avalanche-Sharks Preview

GAME: Colorado Avalanche (19-16-3) at San Jose Sharks (15-16-5).

TIME: Friday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

Nearing the halfway point of the season, the Colorado Avalanche are still dealing with an unsettled goaltending situation.

Colorado hopes to find some stability in net when it faces another team dealing with goaltending problems, the San Jose Sharks.

David Aebischer began this season as Colorado's No. 1 goaltender, but his inconsistent play forced coach Joel Quenneville to use Peter Budaj and Vitaly Kolesnik more than he planned.

Aebischer has only started three games in December after a poor outing Dec. 4 against Buffalo. He is 0-2-0 with a 6.45 goals-against average and .782 save percentage his last three starts.

Budaj started Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Kings, but was pulled just 11 minutes into the game after surrendering two goals on four shots. He was replaced by Aebischer, who gave up three goals on 20 shots the rest of the way.

"(Pulling a goalie) is something you don't like doing," Quenneville said. "In the last game it worked, and (Wednesday night), it didn't."

In Monday's 7-4 victory over Phoenix, Kolesnik got a quick hook after allowing two goals on the only shots he faced the first 3:20. Kolesnik was sent back to Lowell of the American Hockey League on Wednesday.

"We've got two goaltenders in practice now, which is good," Aebischer said after Wednesday's game. "No one has to sit out and feel left out. So I think its a better situation for me and Peter."

Colorado has alternated wins and losses in its last seven games overall, and has lost four of five on the road.

San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov was pulled in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to Phoenix after allowing four goals in the first 4:44 of the third period.

Nabokov, who lost 10 straight earlier this season, has dropped his last four decisions, one in a shootout. He is 2-10-1 lifetime against the Avalanche.

Jonathan Cheechoo scored his ninth goal in eight games Wednesday and Joe Thornton notched his 39th assist in the loss. Thornton, though, has gone a season-high six straight games without a goal.

The Sharks have lost four straight - all by one goal - after winning seven of eight.

"We have to learn to play with a lead and go for the next one," Sharks captain Patrick Marleau said. "We have tons of chances. It shouldn't have to come down to the final 10 minutes."

San Jose has won just one of its last 11 games against Colorado.

STANDINGS: Avalanche - 41 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northwest Division. Sharks - 35 points, 5th place, 15 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Marek Svatos, 20 goals; Alex Tanguay, 28 assists; Joe Sakic, 41 points; Ian Laperriere, 59 PIM. Sharks - Cheechoo, 19 goals; Joe Thornton, 39 assists and 51 points; Mark Smith, 53 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 19.3 percent (46 for 238), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (183 for 216), 6th. Sharks - Power play: 16.1 percent (35 for 217), 20th. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent (146 for 180), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (11-8-0, 1 SO, 3.52 GAA); Budaj (5-5-3, 2.86). Sharks - Nabokov (8-11-5, 3.06); Vesa Toskala (2-4-0, 4.29).

SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 8; Avalanche, 5-2. At Denver, Pierre Turgeon became the 34th player in league history to reach 500 goals and Tanguay scored twice.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 9-10-0 on the road; Sharks - 9-4-3 at home.


Associated Press
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