Posted March 25, 2012 on AP on Fox
The Colorado Avalanche have the same number of points as the San Jose Sharks, but they might be the more desperate team heading into a matchup at HP Pavilion. The Avalanche have fewer games left than the other contenders for the Western Conference's final playoff berth and could use a rare road win over the Sharks on Monday night. Colorado is currently tied with San Jose and Los Angeles for eighth place in the West but has played 77 games, two more than the Sharks and Kings. The Avalanche are also facing a three-game road trip that includes visits to Northwest Division champ Vancouver and fellow contender Calgary. Colorado (40-31-6) heads into that trip having lost consecutive games following a 7-1-1 stretch. It blew a two-goal lead during a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Canucks on Saturday. "We have to get over it, move on and get ready for this road trip," center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We know that other teams have a couple of games in hand on us. ... We can't control if we make the playoffs. We can control how we play each game. We just have to stay focused on that." The Avalanche would certainly like to play better against San Jose. They're 4-9-2 in their last 15 regular-season matchups and 6-13-2 over the past 21 including a 2010 playoff series. Colorado is also 0-5-2 in its last seven regular-season games at HP Pavilion since Feb. 6, 2008, and are 4-13-3 over its last 20, including six visits during the postseason. During this one, they'll face a team that's seeking a third consecutive victory and is 5-2-1 since a five-game skid. The Sharks (38-27-10) won 4-3 in a shootout against Pacific Division rival Phoenix on Saturday. Former Colorado winger Daniel Winnik scored the tying goal early in the second period after his team gave up a score before the first intermission buzzer and another in the first minute of the next frame. Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe got the puck past Mike Smith in the tiebreaker. The win was San Jose's fourth in its last five games at the Pavilion. "The last two games, I like how we're going," Clowe said. "When something happens we just forget about it. When we play with this sort of moxie, we make it hard on other teams." The Sharks are also in contention for the division lead and Joe Thornton will try to help by adding to a six-game point streak against Colorado. The San Jose captain has one goal and seven assists during that run, and Patrick Marleau has five points during the season series, including a hat trick during a 4-1 road win Nov. 20. Logan Couture has three goals and five assists over his last seven in the series. Colorado's Matt Duchene has a point in each of the three meetings with San Jose this season but has tallied one assist over nine contests this month. Paul Stastny had two goals and an assist during the first two periods in San Jose on Dec. 15 but the Sharks scored three times in the third period for a 5-4 win. Stastny has three goals and four assists in his last six overall.
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