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New-look Avs try to snap slump vs. Sharks

by Deborah Francisco

AVALANCHE (25-26-7) AT SHARKS (32-21-6)

TV -- ALTITIUDE (HD),CSN-California (HD)

Last 10 -- Colorado 1-8-1; San Jose 7-2-1

Season series -- This will be the third time these two Western Conference foes have met this season.. San Jose won 4-2 in the first meeting on Oct. 13, but Colorado answered with a 4-3 overtime victory on Nov. 17. The last time these two teams faced each other, Colorado rallied back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period and Kevin Porter notched the game-winner in the extra period.

Big story -- Both teams are making major moves. Colorado swapped goalies with Ottawa on Friday, getting Brian Elliott for Craig Anderson. The Avs made a bigger move early Saturday by landing 2006 No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson and forward Jay McClement for power forward Chris Stewart and rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. San Jose added defenseman Ian White from Carolina and dealt rookie blueliner Derek Joslin to the 'Canes in separate deals.

Team Scope:

Avalanche -- After losing eight straight games, including the worst loss in franchise history in a 9-1 decision to the Calgary Flames last Monday, Colorado picked up its first point in nine games with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 16. Perhaps the combination of gaining that point and the moves the front office is making before the trade deadline will be the kick-start the Avalanche needs to make a mad dash climb back into playoff contention in the tight Western Conference.

"Our compete level was there, our effort was good, and we gave ourselves a chance to win at the end," center Paul Stastny told the Denver Post. "You're never satisfied until you start getting the Ws, but you hope to take the positives and keep going forward."

Sharks -- San Jose is heating up after a middling first half. Thursday's 3-2 home win against Washington in the their return from a 5-2-0 road trip was the Sharks' 11th win in their past 14 games.

Despite the recent success, the Sharks realize the final stretch to the postseason is still a long one and anything could happen in the West.

"Everyone realizes the standings and how tight the West is," Pavelski said. "Every game has a playoff atmosphere. We're trying to get there and you think you make up a little ground but you really don't make any.

Who's hot -- San Jose's Patrick Marleau has 3 goals and 3 assists in five games. Goalie Antti Niemi has won six of his last eight starts, allowing three goals or less in all eight games.

Injury report -- The Avs will have to adjust to life without Matt Duchene, who remains out indefinitely after taking a puck to the hand on Valentine's Day in a 9-1 loss to Calgary. … Goalie Antero Niittymaki remains day-to-day with a lower body injury for the Sharks.

Stat pack -- San Jose rookie Logan Couture leads the NHL in game-winning goals with 8.

Puck drop -- "I think for both parties, it was the right move," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of the Anderson trade. "Craig gets a fresh start there and Brian gets a fresh start here."

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