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Avalanche, Sharks pushing for points as playoffs near

by Brian Hunter

SHARKS (47-19-9) at AVALANCHE (46-21-6)


Last 10: San Jose 6-2-2; Colorado 5-4-1

Season series: This is the third of four games between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Each team has won a game on its home ice. Logan Couture's shootout goal powered the Sharks to a 5-4 win on Dec. 23, while Nathan MacKinnon scored twice to help the Avalanche build a four-goal lead before they held on for a 4-3 victory on Jan. 4.

Big story: The Avalanche are in position to clinch their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2010 by gaining at least a point Saturday.

Team Scope:

Sharks: Only seven games remain in the regular season for San Jose, which is battling it out with the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division title. Anaheim still has nine games remaining after Friday.

"We have to win them all," coach Todd McLellan said in the San Jose Mercury News. "I don't anticipate L.A. or Anaheim losing any games, so you have to win them all, and that's what the goal is. We've got to come in and perform well. I like that there's that pressure on us right to perform. It should keep us honest."

The Sharks have struggled against some non-playoff teams, a trend that continued Thursday with a 4-3 loss at home to the Winnipeg Jets. Five of their final seven games are against teams currently holding down a playoff position.

Avalanche: Should this game require extra time to determine a winner, San Jose might want to keep an eye on Tyson Barrie, who has developed into Colorado's secret weapon in overtime. His goal Thursday gave the Avalanche a 3-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks and was his third in OT this season, the most by a defenseman. Dustin Byfuglien, now of the Jets, is the only other defenseman in the past six seasons to have as many OT goals in a single season.

Setting up Barrie was forward Matt Duchene, who says the Avalanche aren't planning to coast into the postseason.

"We want home ice. We're staying hungry," Duchene said in the Denver Post. "Like it's been all year, we don't change. Winning should breed more winning, not complacency. We aren't thinking about when we're going to clinch as much as finishing with as many points as we can."

Who's hot: Brent Burns, in his first full season as a forward, extended a career high with his 21st goal for the Sharks on Thursday. … Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog has four goals in as many games.

Injury report: San Jose forward Adam Burish (finger) is out indefinitely. Forward Raffi Torres (soreness) hasn't played since March 8. Forward Tomas Hertl (knee) is on injured reserve. … Colorado forward John Mitchell (back) has missed the past four games. Forwards PA Parenteau (knee) and Alex Tanguay (hip) are on injured reserve.

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