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Sharks begin home-and-home against Avalanche

by Deborah Francisco
SHARKS (15-10-2) at AVALANCHE (13-16-1)


Last 10:
San Jose 4-5-1; Colorado 4-6-0

Season Series:
This will be the second of four meetings between the Avalanche and Sharks this season and the first of a home-and-home series. The Sharks prevailed 4-1 in their last meeting on Nov. 20 when Patrick Marleau tallied a hat trick.

Big Story:
Tuesday's contest between the Sharks and Avalanche is a chance for one of the two slumping teams to potentially kick-start what has been a dreary December. Both teams have won just two contests so far this month, increasing the significance of Tuesday's mid-week, mid-month meeting.

Team Scope:

Sharks: Despite controlling most of the first two periods of Sunday's game against the Blackhawks, the Sharks were unable to hold on to a two-goal lead and were edged, 3-2, in overtime by the red-hot Blackhawks. However, the Sharks were happy with the strong performance in the first two periods after having to play three games in four nights.

"We played against a very good team and did very well for two periods," coach Todd McLellan said. "It was pretty evident that one team had played three games in four nights and the other was fresh."

McLellan hopes the Sharks can improve on winning more faceoffs in order to avoid repeating any more outcomes like Sunday's OT loss. If San Jose can perform like it did in the first 40 minutes against Chicago then the Sharks will have nothing to worry about. The Sharks outshot the Blackhawks 17-8 in the first period and 16-5 in the second period.

The Avalanche seemed to be snapping out of a funk with three consecutive wins before dropping three straight on a trip across Western Canada with losses to Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, all division rivals -- stranding Colorado at the bottom of the Northwest Division standings.

Colorado focused on special teams in its Monday morning practice, as botched special teams contributed to the defeats.

"We want to get back to where we were before the road trip," defenseman Ryan O'Byrne told the team's official website. "[Special teams] is a really big part of our success -- not just our penalty kill but our power play also, so we need to get back on track here."

The Avalanche will get a boost to their roster Tuesday against San Jose as Paul Stastny is expected to return from an upper-body injury that sidelined the center since Dec. 4. He practiced Monday on a line with Matt Duchene and TJ Galiardi.

Who's Hot: Left wing Jamie McGinn has netted 4 of his 9 points on the season in his last five games, including a goal Sunday. … Ryan O'Reilly continues to lead Colorado in points (21) despite being shutout in the Avs' last three outings.

Injury Report: San Jose placed defenseman Douglas Murray (right hand) on injured reserve and  defenseman Jim Vandermeer missed his third game because of an upper-body injury … Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson (head) and forward Peter Mueller (concussion) are out. 

Stat Pack:
Despite Colorado's special teams struggles last week, the Avalanche are still ranked fifth in the League on the power play with a 20-percent success rate, while the Sharks ring in at 15th with a 17.5-percent success rate. On the penalty kill, however, Colorado is ranked 25th at 79.3 percent while San Jose is ranked 28th at 75.3 percent.

Puck Drop:
"Special teams is obviously a big part of hockey today," Colorado rookie Gabriel Landeskog said. "We've had some ups and downs with our special teams but practice today was really good. It felt like our power play was clicking and our PK was working really hard, so it was good."

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