Avalanche-Sharks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 15, 2011
The San Jose Sharks return home struggling and trying to shake third-period issues that have cost them valuable points in the standings. The Colorado Avalanche are trying to win on the road for the first time in almost two months. The Sharks open a six-game homestand Thursday night trying to salvage a split of their home-and-home set with the Avalanche. San Jose (15-10-3) has dropped seven of nine (2-5-2), including an 0-1-2 road trip that included blown third-period leads in the final two contests. The Sharks gave up a pair of goals in the third period of Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss at Colorado (14-16-1), salvaging a point when Patrick Marleau scored with 22 seconds remaining to force overtime. Two days earlier, they allowed a tying goal with 1:06 left in regulation before falling 3-2 in overtime at Chicago. "Second game in a row we had the lead in the third and we gave it away," said defenseman Dan Boyle, who had a goal and two assists in the two most recent losses. "It's something that's going to stick out." A return to HP Pavilion against the Avalanche may be just what the Sharks need. They've won 10 of their last 12 home meetings with Colorado and the last six, including 2-1 in a shootout March 1. Colorado certainly wouldn't mind going to a shootout again. The Avalanche have won all five games that have reached the tiebreaker this season, and half of their six road victories have come in that manner. They're a staggering 16-1 in shootouts since December 2009. Gabriel Landeskog, the second overall selection in last summer's NHL draft, ended Colorado's three-game slide and kept the Avalanche thriving in the shootout Tuesday, scoring the decisive goal on his first-ever attempt. "It was clutch," center Matt Duchene said. "It's his first-ever shootout attempt and he goes in and buries it." Duchene missed his attempt in the tiebreaker, but had a goal in the third period against the Sharks. He's scored two goals in his last three games after going seven games without one. Duchene leads Colorado with 11 goals on the season, and his 21 points are second to Ryan O'Reilly's 22. O'Reilly is just four points shy of his total from each of his first two NHL seasons, but he's been held to one in his last four games after collecting nine points in his previous five. The 20-year-old center has just three assists in 10 career meetings with the Sharks, being kept off the scoresheet in all four visits to San Jose. Marleau has four goals in two meetings this season with Colorado, including a hat trick in a 4-1 road win Nov. 20. The left wing, though, hasn't scored in his last five home matchups with the Avalanche. Joe Thornton has 10 goals and 20 assists in 24 games against the Avalanche since joining San Jose, including four assists in 2011-12.
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