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Avs must regroup as Sharks can advance in Game 6

by Matthew Mankiewich

(Sharks lead best-of-seven series, 3-2)

Big story --
After seeing the bounces go against them in Games 1 and 3 and regaining some composure in Game 4, the Sharks had the breakout game just about everyone was waiting for, turning in a dominant 5-0 performance in Game 5 and setting themselves up for a potential Game 6 clincher. The question on the other side, however, is whether the Avs have enough left in the tank to withstand another Shark attack.

Team scope:

Sharks -- Don't stop now. That's what Sharks fans are saying as the team travels to Denver following their best game of the series, if not the season. Relentless pressure of the kind only a deep team like San Jose can bring got the job done. The result was the first game of the series that wasn't decided by a single goal or tied through 59 minutes.

"The way we have been playing is starting to wear on them," rookie Dwight Helminen told the team's Web site.
"That was our plan, to break through and wear them down," Joe Pavelski said. "We showed a little bit tonight. We finally scored (two) on the power play, which was good to see. You never know. You expect that one-goal game, especially the way the series has gone, so to get a few was good."

Avalanche --
Has it finally caught up with them? After managing to keep a lid on the Sharks the first four games, a relatively listless Colorado team learned what happens if they let up even a little.

"I feel we got what we deserved (Wednesday). I don't think we played well enough for 60 minutes to win," coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post. "You want to play with energy in this game, and that's something we talk about as a group all the time. We didn't do that consistently. This is playoff hockey here; we shouldn't be tired this time of the year. We should be re-energized and playing with passion. You've got to find a way to get yourself going."

Goalie Craig Anderson, the anchor of the Avs' playoff effort, was less than his usual near-perfect self, getting pulled midway through the third period of Game 5 after allowing four goals on 33 shots.

That, however, is not as much of a problem as the alarming lack of offense the last three games, in which the Avs have scored only twice -- and one of those was the result of Dan Boyle's overtime miscue in Game 3.

Who's hot -- Logan Couture scored twice in Game 5 for his first NHL multi-goal game, playoff or otherwise.

"It was cool," said Couture, who stuck with the team after being called up from Worcester on Mar. 16. "My first two-goal game (in the NHL) and to get it in the playoffs … even to score one goal in the playoffs was amazing. To get the second one was extra special." 

Meanwhile, the top line on San Jose has been its second of Pavelski centering Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi. They've scored six of the Sharks' 14 goals so far, more than offsetting the lack of production from the Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley-Patrick Marleau trio, which has a lone Marleau power-play tally between them.

Injury report --
Avs forward Peter Mueller (concussion) has been upgraded from "out indefinitely" to "doubtful" for Saturday. Milan Hejduk (upper body) will not be available, and neither will David Jones, still hopeful for a comeback from a knee injury suffered in late November.

Stat pack -- Bottom line, Anderson is the reason these two teams are playing a Game 6. The Sharks have outshot the Avalanche 211-131 over five games, and while Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov has a shutout to his credit, he's had to face fewer shots overall. The Sharks outshot the Avs 37-28 in Game 5, but it was 29-11 after two periods. Since taking a 5-4 lead in Game 2, Colorado has managed just two goals in 211 minutes, 34 seconds.

Puck drop -- "(Saturday) night's huge for us. It's do or die. Every time we've had a tough game we've rebounded well. We know we're capable of rebounding. To get a win tomorrow night and send it back to San Jose, I think the ball would be in our court." -- Avalanche Calder Trophy finalist Matt Duchene

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