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Sharks meet Avalanche in battle of surging teams

by Tal Pinchevsky

AVALANCHE (2-1-0) at SHARKS (3-0-0)


Season series: This is the first of three meetings this season between these teams. San Jose went 3-0-1 last season against Colorado, with the duo of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau combining for four goals and seven assists in those four games.

Big story: Both of these Western Conference teams are off to promising starts in this compacted NHL season. Following an opening-night loss in Minnesota, Colorado has outscored the competition 7-1 in its last two contests while San Jose appears to be a juggernaut early on, netting 15 goals in their first three games.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: After back-to-back wins at home, Colorado is embarking on a season-long four-game road swing that starts Saturday afternoon in San Jose. The Avalanche will be starting the trip on something of a hot streak after defeating the defending champion Kings 3-1 on Tuesday before dismantling the Blue Jackets two nights later.

They wasted little time against Columbus on Thursday, with PA Parenteau opening the scoring just 51 seconds into the game. Matt Duchene contributed his first two goals of the season and Semyon Varlamov stopped 33 shots for the shutout in the Avalanche's 4-0 victory. But much of the talk following the game swirled around John Mitchell, who required stitches after taking a puck to the face before returning to notch his second goal of the season.

"It could have been a lot worse if it had been in the teeth or an eyeball," Mitchell said of the errant shot. "The forehead is a pretty thick bone, I guess."

Sharks: San Jose might not be too popular a team in the province of Alberta. After opening the season with a 4-1 win in Calgary, the Sharks crashed the Oilers' home opener by scoring a remarkable six goals in the opening period on their way to a 6-3 victory.

That hot play continued Thursday night in San Jose, where the Sharks opened a six-game homestand against Phoenix. The Coyotes appeared to have a stranglehold on the match when Lauri Korpikoski's goal gave Phoenix a 3-1 lead 7:28 into the final period. But the Sharks rattled off four unanswered goals, with Marleau and Thornton combining for three goals and three assists in that span to give San Jose a 5-3 win.

Who's hot: Following an injury-plagued 2011-12 season in which he was limited to 58 games, Duchene is off to a strong start with four points in his last two games. Parenteau has goals in consecutive games while Varlamov's .948 save percentage and 1.68 goals-against average rank among the best in the League. … For the Sharks, there might not be a hotter tandem in the NHL than Marleau and Thornton, who ranked first in the League in goals and assists respectively heading into Friday's action. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture have kept pace, notching seven points apiece in three games.

Injury report: The glaring omission on the Avalanche roster will be winger Steve Downie, who is lost for the season following knee surgery. … The Sharks are missing defensemen Brent Burns (hernia surgery) and Jason Demers (wrist).

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