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Avs, Sharks need two points to move up in West race

by Eric Goodman
AVALANCHE (40-31-6) at SHARKS (38-27-10)


Last 10:
Colorado 6-2-2; San Jose 5-3-2

Season series: This is the fourth and final regular-season game between these clubs. The Sharks hold the advantage with a 2-0-1 record and haven't lost a home regulation game to the Avs since Oct. 1, 2009.

Big Story: The final two playoff berths in the Western Conference are still within reach for five total teams and the Avalanche and Sharks are both currently on the outside looking in. While the Los Angeles Kings hold the eighth seed with 86 points, Colorado and San Jose (both with 86 points) would lose out to L.A. due to tiebreaking criteria. Monday's game at HP Pavilion isn't technically a do-or-die for either club, but fans will look forward to a playoff-like atmosphere as a regulation win would vastly improve that team's playoff hopes.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: With just five games remaining on its schedule, Colorado is currently at a disadvantage when compared to the Kings and Sharks, who both have two games each in hand. This is the start of a three-game road trip that also goes through Vancouver and Calgary before the Avs close out the season with a quick two-game homestand.

Colorado will try to end an overall two-game winless streak as it visits an arena in which it is just 0-2-2 over its last four games. While the Avs couldn't protect a two-goal second-period lead against the Vancouver Canucks this past Saturday, they still were able to gain an all-important point in the 3-2 overtime loss.

"It's disappointing that we didn't come away with the extra point because at this time of year we obviously need points," coach Joe Sacco told "But I was pleased with the effort tonight. I thought we played hard."

Sharks: San Jose closes out its three-game homestand Monday by trying to extend its winning streak to three games. Since Colorado and San Jose are tied for the ninth spot in the West, a regulation win by either team would be a tremendous boost towards moving into that eighth-place playoff position.

The Sharks would like to get a similar effort Monday as they received this past Saturday in a 4-3 shootout win over the seventh-place Phoenix Coyotes (87 points). While the teams traded goals throughout the first two periods, goalie Antti Niemi's save on the Coyotes' Ray Whitney in the shootout would seal the 4-3 victory for the Sharks, as well as gaining them an all-important second point in the standings.

Although coach Todd McLellan was far from impressed with his team's inconsistent effort Saturday, he was still happy to get the victory over a team that the Sharks are chasing in the standings.

"On a night when we were at times almost the 'Bad News Bears' there for a little bit, to find a way to get two on those nights is important," McLellan told

Who's Hot:
Sharks captain Joe Thornton has 3 assists over his last two games played. The center has also been impressive over his career versus Colorado with 13 goals and 28 assists in 35 games against the Avalanche. … Calder Trophy candidate Gabriel Landeskog has 9 goals and 9 assists over his last 19 games played for the Avs.

Injury Report:
Forward TJ Galiardi (upper body) has missed the last five games and remains day-to-day for San Jose. … Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson (back spasms) has been sidelined for the last five games and it has not yet been revealed if he will be ready to go for Monday.

Stat Pack:
With just one more assist, Joe Thornton (750) can move ahead of Larry Robinson for 39th place on the NHL's career list for that category.

Puck Drop:
With each point at an absolute premium at this moment of the season, having played two more games than your fellow competitors can lead to a potentially  nerve-wracking situation of having to constantly pay attention to what those above you in the standings are doing. But, for the Avalanche, staying focused on winning the next upcoming game sounds like the best plan.

"It has to be shift by shift," Avs forward Ryan O'Reilly told reporters Saturday when asked about the team's chances at the postseason. "We can't control how we make the playoffs, but we can control how we play each game."

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