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Surging Sharks play host to struggling Avalanche

by Dan Rosen
AVALANCHE (26-30-7) at SHARKS (36-21-6)


Last 10 --
Colorado 1-8-1; San Jose 8-2-0

Season series --
San Jose is 2-0-1 with wins on Oct. 21 by a 4-2 margin and Feb. 19 by a 4-0 margin. Colorado won in overtime, 4-3, on Nov. 17.

Big Story -- On paper this is a mismatch between the League's hottest team (San Jose) and its coldest (Colorado). The Sharks have earned five out of a possible six points in the season series as well. San Jose is hoping to both bolster its lead in the Pacific Division and continue its challenge of Detroit for the second seed in the Western Conference. Colorado is hoping to end a three-game slide and get off to a good start in March after a forgettable February (1-11-1).

Team Scope:

Avalanche -- Colorado has lost 13 of its last 14 games (1-12-1), so the offseason can't come fast enough. Injuries are partly to blame for how badly they've fallen apart, but it's been a collapse by all involved. They're trying to salvage a California road trip that has already seen them lose in Los Angeles and Anaheim. They were shorthanded nine times in L.A. That doesn't bode well for the League's 29th-ranked penalty kill, which has allowed goals on 14 of its last 49 chances over the last 12 games. Colorado has allowed three or more goals in 18 straight games.

Sharks -- That 0-6 slide in early January is totally forgotten, meaningless. The Sharks have won six straight and are 15-2-1 in their last 18 games. They've climbed up to third in the Western Conference with their eyes set on the second seed, should the Red Wings allow it. San Jose is coming off a 3-0 road trip through Detroit, Pittsburgh and Calgary, and Tuesday's game starts a six-game homestand. We've already mentioned Colorado's porous penalty kill, well San Jose is the League's No. 3 power play team (22.6 percent). The Sharks are better than that at home (25.2 percent).

"When you think about most nights, half a goal makes a difference and the power play can get you that as well as the penalty kill," coach Todd McLellan told the team's website. "As the year goes on you're less likely to score on power plays, the goalies are sharper. If your power play can get you that goal, it makes it a world of difference."

Who's Hot -- Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau has 2 goals and 1 assist in last two games and fellow left wing Ryane Clowe has 4 goals in the last five games. Center Logan Couture has a five-game points streak with 1 goal and 7 assists.

Injury Report --
Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle is questionable for Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury. Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins are out. Goalie Antero Niittymaki remains out with a groin injury, but has been skating with the club. … Colorado captain Adam Foote is on the trip, but remains out with a quad injury.

Stat Pack -- The Avalanche have lost 38 straight games when scoring fewer than three goals dating back to Feb. 12, 2010. They have scored three or more goals only four times in their last 14 games.

Puck Drop --
Boyle refused to tell David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury News what the nature of his injury is, but at least he's not doing a total media blackout:

"It's not a concussion," Boyle told Pollack.

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