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San Jose Sharks vs. Colorado Avalanche @NHLdotcom
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GAME: San Jose Sharks (33-16-11-6) at Colorado Avalanche (33-16-12-5).

TIME: Friday, 9 p.m. EST.

The San Jose Sharks have been unable to carry their dominant play at home over to road games. The Colorado Avalanche have struggled to do the exact opposite.

The Sharks and Avalanche close out their season series when they meet at the Pepsi Center in a matchup of first-place teams.

San Jose has won a franchise-record eight straight at home and opened up a six-point lead over Dallas in the Pacific Division. But the Sharks, 18-5-7-2 at HP Pavilion, are 15-11-4-4 on the road and have dropped two of their last three away from San Jose (1-1-0-1).

The Sharks defeated Montreal 4-3 at home Wednesday night, as former Canadiens captain Vincent Damphousse had a goal and two assists for San Jose.

The victory closed out a 3-0 homestand for the Sharks and allowed them to keep pace with Detroit in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Red Wings also won Wednesday and are four points ahead of San Jose.

"Obviously, we've got to be aware of who's behind us, but we've got to look ahead, too," said Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart, who had a goal and two assists. "I don't think we're just looking to hang on in the Pacific Division. We're looking at the whole Western Conference. If we take care of our games, we won't have to be looking over our shoulder."

Colorado is one team San Jose would like to take care of in the clubs' last meeting of the regular season. The Avalanche also have 83 points and will likely be a major player in the battle for the West title throughout the remainder of the season.

The Avalanche, though, have been in a slump for the last two weeks, going 1-5-2-1 in their last nine games. Colorado has been less than dominant at the Pepsi Center (16-12-5-1), a puzzling development considering they have the second-best road record in the West at 17-4-7-4. Colorado is winless in eight home games since Feb. 3 (0-4-3-1).

Mattias Ohlund and Marek Malik scored third-period goals as Vancouver rallied to tie Colorado 5-5 in Denver on Wednesday night, overcoming big games from two of the Avalanche's stars to hold Colorado to one point.

Joe Sakic had three goals and an assist, and Alex Tanguay had two goals and three assists to tie his career high for points in a game. The Avs, though missed a chance to move two points up on second-place Vancouver in the Northwest Division.

"We didn't get the two points, but I think it was definitely a step in the right direction," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "In the past couple of weeks we have had trouble scoring goals. Tonight, Joe, (Milan) Hejduk and Tanguay led the way."

Colorado center Peter Forsberg missed his eighth straight game because of a groin injury, but right wing Dan Hinote returned after missing 14 games with a concussion.

The Avalanche will be playing the third game of a four-game homestand.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 83 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Avalanche - 83 points, 1st place, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Patrick Marleau, 27 goals and 50 points; Damphousse, 25 assists; Scott Parker, 91 PIM. Avalanche - Hejduk, 30 goals; Tanguay, 52 assists and 76 points; Jim Cummins, 136 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 3): Sharks - Power play: 16.2 percent (45 for 278), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (225 for 265), 9th (tied). Avalanche - Power play: 21.3 percent (61 for 286), 3rd. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (248 for 294), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (23-15-7, 8 SO, 2.03 GAA); Vesa Toskala (10-7-4, 2.11). Avalanche - David Aebischer (26-15-9, 4, 2.09); Phil Sauve (7-6-3, 2.79).


LAST MEETING: Jan. 17; Sharks, 2-1. At Denver, Nils Ekman scored early in the third period and Toskala made 32 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 15-11-4-4 on the road; Avalanche - 16-12-5-1 at home.

Associated Press
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