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Sharks try to continue surge in standings vs. Avs

by Brian Hunter
SHARKS (9-5-2) at AVALANCHE (9-7-1)


Last 10:
San Jose 6-3-1; Colorado 5-4-1

Season Series:
Second of four meetings this season. Joe Pavelski netted a pair of power-play goals and Antero Niittymaki made 29 saves to lead San Jose to a 4-2 win in Colorado on Oct. 21.

Big Story: The Sharks began the season overseas and got off to a bit of a slow start following their return to North America. They currently sit third in the Pacific Division but picked up a key 6-3 victory in a showdown against the first-place Kings on Monday, making it clear they will be a contender for a fourth-straight division title. 

Team Scope:

Sharks: All four lines for San Jose chipped in with at least one goal against Los Angeles, further illustrating the point these Sharks are still a team with which to be reckoned. The big guns led the way, with Patrick Marleau recording a goal and assisting on two others and Dany Heatley also getting on the board. Ryan Clowe and Torrey Mitchell lit the lamp 75 seconds apart late in the first period to put the Sharks in front to stay, checker Scott Nichol tallied midway through the second and Pavelski had a late power-play strike.

"They are the big dogs, and they're playing real well," Nichol said of the Kings. "They're the hottest team in the NHL right now. It was nice for us to come in and play our style and have a big home win. … The year is picking up now. You aren't nine games in now. We all know the system. We all know how we should be playing."

Avalanche: Beset by injuries to its defense in particular, Colorado got Kyle Wilson back in the lineup Monday after he missed the previous five games with a leg injury, while another blueliner who has emerged as one of the team's top offensive players, John-Michael Liles, scored twice in the first period of a 6-3 win over St. Louis. Liles also assisted on a Paul Stastny goal as the Avalanche got a three-game homestand started on a strong note.

"I thought we battled hard and guys were doing great work down low, which was the biggest thing. That was pretty much the cause of my two goals and I think Pauly's goal," Liles said. "It was just hard work, hard forechecking, good cycling and I was able to sneak in and the rebound came right to me on the first one. The second one, I don’t know what I was doing. I was behind their net and came out and the puck just kind of bounced to me and I was just trying to put a shot through."

Who's Hot:
Dan Boyle has 1 goal and 5 assists during a five-game points streak for the Sharks. Pavelski has 2 goals and 4 assists during a three-game points streak. Clowe has goals in consecutive games and 4 points over that span. … Liles has 3 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Avalanche. Stastny has 2 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. David Jones has 3 goals in as many games.

Injury Report:
San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. … Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson (knee) remains on injured reserve, where he is joined by defensemen Kyle Cumiskey (concussion) and Kyle Quincey (concussion) and forwards Peter Mueller (concussion), TJ Galiardi (wrist) and David Van Der Gulik (knee). Defenseman Colby Cohen missed Monday's game due to illness.

Stat Pack:
Marleau's latest goal for the Sharks was his 100th on the power play. He also has 12 shorthanded tallies among his 327 career goals. … Avalanche captain Adam Foote set the franchise record for points by a defenseman when he assisted on a Jones goal Monday, giving him 254 for his career and moving him past Sandis Ozolinsh.

Puck Drop:
Colorado's early-season savior has been goalie Peter Budaj, who has seen every minute since Anderson went down and is 6-3-1 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .906 save percentage despite playing with an often patchwork defense in front of him.

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