Avalanche-Sharks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 25, 2013
San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan is pleased that his team's offense is clicking. His whole team has generally been on top of its game in recent years against the Colorado Avalanche. The unbeaten Sharks look to continue their early success Saturday as they try for a seventh straight overall win against the Avalanche and a ninth consecutive regular-season series victory at home. Ranked 13th in the NHL with 219 goals last season, San Jose (3-0-0) is on pace to surpass that total even though it will play 34 fewer games due to the lockout. The Sharks have netted 15 goals, with Patrick Marleau scoring twice in each of the first three games. He is the first player to accomplish that feat since Peter Stastny - father of Avs center Paul Stastny - in 1982-83 with the Quebec Nordiques. Logan Couture has three goals, Dan Boyle and Martin Havlat both have two, and captain Joe Thornton (eight) and Joe Pavelski (seven) are among the NHL assist leaders. "Teams are going to count on their big guys to get the job done," said McLellan, whose team opened its home schedule with Thursday's 5-3 win over Phoenix. "Ours are producing right now.'' The Sharks have outscored the Avs 25-11 during their regular-season home winning streak in this series. San Jose found the back of the net five times in both of Colorado's visits to HP Pavilion last season. Repeating that effort could be a challenge given how the Avs (2-1-0) have shored up their defense since a 4-2 season-opening loss at Minnesota. Semyon Varlamov has turned aside 61 of 62 shots and Colorado has killed all 12 penalties - extending its streak to 16 - while winning its last two. "The guys did a great job for me,'' Varlamov said after making 33 saves in Thursday's 4-0 home win over Columbus. "They blocked a lot of shots, so I can say thanks.'' Center John Mitchell received plenty of praise for his play and his toughness after getting hit in the face by the puck in the first period Thursday, then returning to net his second goal of the season in the third. He's tied with Matt Duchene and fellow newcomer P.A. Parenteau for the team lead. "(Mitchell) has been really good for us in the first three games," coach Joe Sacco told the Avs' official website. "Certainly I like the way he has played; he is versatile, he can kill penalties, he can play on our power play. He can do a lot for us." Sacco is going to need a lot from his special teams, as San Jose has converted 7 of 18 on the power play. The Sharks' penalty kill has room for improvement - it's allowed five goals in 14 attempts - but goaltender Antti Niemi has given up just two even-strength goals in three starts. Niemi is 4-0-0 with a 1.47 goals-against average in four home starts versus Colorado since joining San Jose in 2010-11. Veteran center Scott Gomez could make his Sharks debut after signing with the club on Wednesday.
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